UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed, PM Khan hold ‘wide-ranging talks’

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Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) speaks with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan during a meeting at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad. (AFP)
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Mian Jahangir Iqbal, Principal Information Officer, presenting photo album to Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan upon his departure at Noor Khan Air Base in Islamabad on Sunday. (Press Information Department)
Updated 07 January 2019

UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed, PM Khan hold ‘wide-ranging talks’

  • Prime focus was on trade and economy with an agreement to expedite the processes involved
  • Analysts say both the countries enjoy a decades-old religious and cultural bond

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan held wide-ranging talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in Islamabad on Sunday, with the main focus on trade and economy.

The one-on-one meeting was part of Sheikh Mohammed’s one-day state visit to Pakistan after a 12-year gap.

“They resolved to take all necessary measures to deal with matters related to trade enhancement, and decided to form a task force to achieve this objective,” a statement released by the PM Office read.

Sheikh Mohammed was received by PM Khan at the Nur Khan airbase and accorded a ceremonial reception at the PM House, which was followed by a meeting and delegation-level talks. 

The statement said that the two “held wide-ranging talks focusing on all areas of bilateral relations”, adding that both the leaders expressed their determination to further strengthen the “historic and mutually beneficial relationship” between the two countries.

The two leaders underscored the importance of effectively pursuing the various initiatives taken for a strengthened and strategic bilateral relationship including working on a “long-term investment framework agreement”.

PM Khan also thanked Sheikh Mohammed for the “generous balance of payment support of $3 billion” adding that “this financial support shows the UAE’s continued commitment and friendship that has remained steadfast over the years”.

The premier welcomed the UAE’s interest in investing in Pakistan’s oil and gas, logistics, and construction sectors. The ongoing defense and security cooperation between both the countries also came under discussion which they agreed to enhance further.

The prime minister congratulated the leadership of the UAE for declaring 2019 as the year of tolerance. “This was the best way to pay a tribute to the vision and legacy of HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” the statement said.

“The crown prince recognized the efforts and unparalleled sacrifices made by Pakistan to eliminate terrorism and extremism,” it said, adding that the two leaders instructed the relevant authorities to expedite the finalization of the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement to clampdown on white-collar crimes such as money-laundering.

The crown prince was also briefed about the efforts that Pakistan was making to support and facilitate the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process. He also appreciated the UAE’s role in hosting Afghan peace talks in Abu Dhabi.

“The two leaders agreed to work closely for the lasting peace and stability of Afghanistan” and expressed their resolve “to strive for progress, prosperity, and stability of both the UAE and Pakistan”.

“The crown prince’s visit to Pakistan shows that both the countries have turned a new page to further strengthen the decades-old bilateral relationship,” former ambassador Javed Hafeez told Arab News.

He said that PM Khan’s visits to the UAE have finally born “positive results” as the UAE has already extended $3 billion financial package to help Islamabad overcome its balance of payments crisis.

Professor Tahir Malik, a foreign affairs analyst, said that Pakistan’s relations with the UAE had soured during the previous PML-N government’s rule and “it is heartening to see the leadership of both the countries forging the bilateral relationship again”.

“The UAE has always extended financial and moral support to Pakistan during its testing times, and hopefully it will announce major investments in oil and other sectors soon,” he told Arab News.

“It is important to understand that relations of UAE and Pakistan are not limited to economic cooperation only …. we have a very strong religious and cultural bond as well which keeps growing with the passage of time,” he added.


New bid to find buyer for Air India slammed as ‘selling family silver’

Updated 28 January 2020

New bid to find buyer for Air India slammed as ‘selling family silver’

  • Indian government aims to offload entire stake in debt-ridden national carrier after failed 2018 sale attempt
  • Critics blame country’s struggling economy for decision to sell airline

NEW DELHI: Renewed government attempts to find a buyer for “debt trap” national carrier, Air India, have been slammed as “selling the family silver.”

Politicians from opposition and pro-government parties condemned the move by the Indian government to offload its entire stake in the flag-carrier airline, which comes more than a year after a failed bid to sell a controlling share.

A document released on Monday said that any bidder would have to absorb around $3.3 billion of debt along with other liabilities.

Speaking in New Delhi on Tuesday, Kapil Sibal, senior leader of India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, said: “When governments don’t have money this is what they do.

“The government of India has no money; growth is less than 5 percent and millions of rupees are outstanding under several social schemes. This is what they will do, sell all the valuable assets we have.”

Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress, the regional party ruling West Bengal, said in a video statement that “the government has decided to sell more family silver by selling 100 percent stake in Air India. You can well imagine how bad the economy (is).”

And on Twitter, Subramanian Swamy, parliamentarian from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said: “This deal is wholly anti-national, and I will (be) forced to go to court. We cannot sell our family silver.”

Monday’s document gave the deadline for submission of initial expressions of interest in purchasing the airline as March 17. In 2018, the Indian government tried to sell 76 percent of the carrier but got no takers.

To justify the latest sale attempt, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, said: “Despite infusing 30,500 crore rupees ($4.3 billion) in AI (Air India) since 2012, the airline has been running into losses year after year. Due to its accumulated debt of about 60,000 crore rupees, its financial position is very fragile.”

He described the company as being in a “debt trap” but added that it could be saved through privatization. “We have learnt lessons from the 2018 bid.”

Referring to critical comments from fellow BJP members, the minister said they were expressing their “personal opinion.”

Jitender Bhargava, former executive director of corporate communication at Air India, said the current offer would attract potential buyers.

“India is a growth market, so anybody would like to be part of it and take the advantage. The acquisition of Air India provides the fastest way to become a global carrier,” he told Arab News.

According to Bhargava, the move had nothing to do with the current state of the Indian economy. “All the important international carriers want to expand their footprints in India because of the potential of the Indian market. The government has taken a pragmatic view on the sale of the national carrier,” he said.

“Ownership of the airline does not matter, leadership matters. Once it came into the hands of the government, bureaucracy killed it,” added Bhargava, who authored “The Descent of Air India” chronicling the airline’s downfall. “Air India under the government’s ownership cannot run, cannot survive.”

He predicted that the carrier would become a marginal player if there was no change in ownership.

Air India has a fleet of 146 aircraft and employs around 21,000 people. It was founded by prominent industrialist J.R.D. Tata in 1932 and nationalized in 1953.