A friend wrote me this interesting note in reference to my last article ‘Emirates + Eithad = neo federal UAE': " ... can you tell me why all your articles on further unifying the emirates only came after Dubai's second fall?

As great of an idea (and hopefully, one day, a reality) as that would be, Abu Dhabians [w]ill mistake such proposals for an indirect cry for help to save Dubai's drowning [body]. [A]nd although that way of thought is not to be commended, suspicion is understandable considering the conveniently timed proposals, don't you think?"

My first thought was that I, and other Dubai-based writers, had written about the necessary empowerment of the federation many months before the effects of the global economic crisis on Dubai became clear; from the need to empower federal ministerial institutions to the need for a broader, more conclusive debate on national identity.

My second thought was that it was a silly statement. I mean, why would anyone question a call for further unity among the emirates of the federation? Because it can only mean further cooperation and development, right? Right? It seems that for my friend and whoever gave her that impression, it is not clear how Dubai can contribute to the union at this stage. It seems that due to Dubai's economic woes some question its value.

Perhaps not. Perhaps to some it does indeed seem like a cry for help with nothing to offer in return. It does seem that the younger, more aggressive city has stumbled upon hard times. Could it be that this is how these articles seem to Abu Dhabians? I think not. I believe that there are wise men in the capital who understand the geo-political reasons why this nation was built and these stories are not very oldyet. In fact, many men who were involved in these conversations are still alive and can recite them quite vividly.


But lets assume that I'm wrong and lets assume that my friend is right. Lets assume that Dubai only recognises the importance of the federation when it faces financial peril. Lets assume that and ask ourselves, does it really? Dubai has refinanced its debts through Abu Dhabi — its neighbour and sister emirate — because this option was extended by Abu Dhabi. Had it not, Dubai would've bridge-financed an accelerated sale of a variety of healthy assets, some of which were mentioned in my article ‘It's the equity, stupid'.

Dubai continues to command regionally unrivalled world-class infrastructure and a business-friendly environment that money can't buy — because it's ingrained in Dubaians' DNA. In fact, Dubai could very much re-engineer itself by way of deleveraging by bringing in sovereign wealth funds — for example, the Qatar Investment Authority, the Kuwait Investment Authority, Temasek Holdings, Russia's National Welfare Fund and China's National Social Security Fund and Hong Kong Monetary Authority Investment Portfolio — as well as private investment groups. It would very much relaunch itself as a free-market principality. However, Dubai does not desire to do this — otherwise why would it have joined the union 38 years ago? It had British protection then and it could have very much pursued the above.

The reality is that Abu Dhabi and Dubai remain intertwined and destined to not only cooperate, but as I will not tire of mentioning, become physically one city. Those who view the UAE as a loose federation continue to misunderstand its context relative to the region. The story of the UAE is one of a union of peace and progress of a people — the Arabs — mired by wars and failures. The success of the UAE and a resurgence in its federal identity will not only benefit the UAE but also inspire the many nations around it.

Let it be known that in a crude, calculated manner Abu Dhabi and Dubai do not ‘need' each other today but rather ‘want' each other. This nation was a result of a culmination of brilliant minds and not bullion; let this legacy not be lost now.

An old English saying goes something like this: "Quiet, calm deliberation disentangles every knot". Let us not jump the gun in trying to analyse what it is that is in the making. I know it is the resurgence of a union that has for too long been overshadowed by municipal ambitions. Let us hope that this is not hindered by further ambitions that are counter-federal in nature. Let us untangle this knot of knots once and for all.

Mishaal Al Gergawi is an Emirati commentator on socio-economic and cultural affairs in the UAE.