As the race dust settles and the celebrations subside, following the Expo 2020 victory, it is imperative to take stock of such a thrilling competition. The UAE beat such magnificent opponents like Russia, Brazil and Turkey. At a different time, each of their candidate cities could most probably have won hands-down. But, according to many of the delegates who were present at the Bureau International des Expositions on November 27, our own Dubai represented everything that the Expo stands for — cosmopolitan, open-minded, sophisticated and innovative.

Most countries voted for Dubai for those reasons. And we thank them for that. The list is big obviously, but a number of countries must be acknowledged here for their role in supporting Dubai’s winning bid. These include Kuwait, which played a key role in rallying such support. Also, the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain and Portugal must be recognised for standing by the UAE. It is only fair to acknowledge the backing of those countries and thank them.

However, we in Gulf News were stunned and disappointed to learn that two close allies of the UAE chose not to vote for Dubai. Pakistan and Afghanistan voted for other cities despite their governments’ official assurances that they would vote for Dubai.

We are disappointed because we consider those two countries to be close friends in whom the UAE has invested so much politically and economically. The UAE is a key financial supporter of the infrastructure and development projects in Pakistan. The historic relations between the two peoples will not be affected by what the government in Islamabad did on the night of the Expo 2020 vote. But we deserve an explanation of why such a close ally chose to withhold its backing when it was needed.

We deserve an explanation from Afghanistan too. Our boys are still deployed in that country risking their lives to provide essential humanitarian, medical and security aid. The UAE is a major donor in rebuilding the country that has seen more than its share of wars and occupations since the Soviet invasion in the late 1970s. The UAE has put in so much effort to set up modern schools, hospitals and road networks. The UAE has always thrown its weight in support of those two countries as they fought terrorism.

Despite their assurances, those two countries declined to vote for Dubai, which leads to serious questions about their credibility as allies. Also, can these governments justify their positions to their large communities in the UAE? These two communities live and work in the UAE and have been an important part of the development process of our country. As all other expatriate communities in the UAE, the Pakistani and Afghan communities supported Dubai’s bid whole-heartedly. Do they know their governments have voted against Dubai in the crucial rounds?

Can these governments face their communities here with the true face of their policies with regard to the critical Expo vote? We certainly doubt. As we feel it is only fair to be grateful and thank those countries which supported Dubai’s bid to host the Expo, we feel that we have been betrayed by two close allies. We expected those two countries to be the first to offer their backing, considering the close-knit relationship that binds our people. But Islamabad and Kabul chose to disregard all that binds us and turned their back on us at a critical moment. And that is just incomprehensible.

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