Abu Dhabi: The international order is now in a major flux and the UAE must exert efforts to foster and maintain regional bridges that ensure stability and prosperity, including with countries like Turkey and Iran, a top official has said.
Without security and stability, it is very difficult to achieve anything meaningful, and this holds true for a region that is one of the most turbulent in the world, said Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic advisor to the UAE President while addressing the second Ramadan lecture at the Mohamed Bin Zayed Majlis in Abu Dhabi.
“The international political reality confirms that collective action is the best way of achieving positive outcomes and reducing negative effects. Although collective action in our region has faced many obstacles for a host of different reasons, it remains necessary,” Dr Gargash said.
“Under the current changes in the region, it is necessary to manage matters peacefully with countries that have different policies and views, by working on the common grounds and putting differences aside. For example, Iran is a neighbour and therefore we endeavour to establish the best relations with the country. We see that Turkey is a partner in our joint endeavour to prosperity and we continue to support the prospects of the Abraham Accords,” he added.
UAE security sacred
“I would also like to say that there are some things that we consider to be a red line, and the UAE’s security is [certainly] a red line. We do not accept transgressions against it. It must be protected by using all available means — including human resources, defence resources, the alertness of the community — and by building international alliances that are tangible with actual commitments [to the UAE],” Dr Gargash reiterated,
The session was attended by Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, and a host of other dignitaries.
During his talk, the diplomatic advisor mentioned how the UAE has seen five decades of development, but has faced recent challenges in the form of security threats.
“The UAE has increased its gross domestic product from $15 billion (Dh55.17 billion) in 1975 to $430 billion today. The children of farmers are now pilots, financial experts and leaders in their fields. We are also successfully diversifying our economy away from fossil fuels. But changes are now coming at us from all sides and it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the global transformation — especially as the UAE is one of the countries that has benefitted the most from globalisation due to its open economy,” Dr Gargash said.
He said the UAE faced a major challenge on January 17, when civilian areas in Abu Dhabi were targeted by Houthi terrorists. Even though the country dealt with the threat in a decisive manner, the incident “alerted us to lingering dangers, especially ones that target the security and stability of the UAE”, he said.
Protect and build
“The objective of the missiles was not to just cause material damage, but also to undermine the progress. Not everyone wants the best for the UAE or considers its success as a success for the region. I believe that the UAE has to work in the upcoming years to build [the nation] with one hand and defend it with the other. We must protect our achievements and also continue to build on our prosperity. We should not be held hostage by the psychological threat of this challenge, [nor should] we be so optimistic that we don’t protect our achievements and our reputation,” Dr Gargash said.
“We were able to confront these terrorist attacks with our national capabilities, but it was necessary to review the nature of our relationship and alliances and determine where we stand, in light of the facts presented to us. The region has become more complex because of the spread of militias and military equipment changes. The increased use of missiles and drones pose significant risk and could escalate regional tensions,” he added.
Looking forward, the UAE will therefore continue building an efficient and professional military, establish strong alliances and focus on economic developments. Its foreign policy will focus on “building bridges, managing disputes and building partnerships on the basis of a prosperous UAE in a stable region”.
Major international shifts
Shedding further light on the UAE’s vision, Dr Gargash said the nation and its leadership works to strike a delicate balance between preserving Emirati values and adopting change.
He also explained how the world itself is undergoing major shifts and stressed that the world has not always been as it looks today. For instance, the US dollar had not always been used internationally and its status as the de facto global currency is only about 60 to 70 years old. Neither has oil always been the major source of energy and its widespread use only began in the 20th century.
“If we accept change as the only constant, we will be prepared to handle the changes,” he added.
According to the diplomat, western dominance on the world order is now on the decline and China and other Asian economies are becoming important players in the international area by virtue of their technological prowess and population size.
Amid these shifts, the upcoming challenges for the world will not just be political and nations can therefore gain prominence in the way they handle economic, health and environmental challenges.
“Climate change, sustainable energy and world health are all a proof of this change. On the one hand, they reveal the big gap between developing countries and least developed countries. At the same time, it is considered as a catalyst and a call for cooperation due to the global nature of the challenge. [Climate action through sustainable energy] is providing a new chance for the Middle East to lead the way,” Dr Gargash said.
Amid these shifts, he sought regional security and stability, saying that it is in the best interests of all countries in the Middle East.
Need for diplomacy
“Most acute international disputes occur within the Middle Eastern regional order. We should therefore build on interests at the regional level, as it is important to maintain joint prosperity with an approach to ensuring safety and security. The moment we have a crisis, the ramifications become very widespread. It is [therefore] in our national interests to operate with wisdom, patience and diplomacy,” Dr Gargash said.
“We [also] have to reject [the approach of] settling disputes by force. We have to focus on the sanctity of sovereignty. If disputes last, they have to be resolved diplomatically at the end of the day, by finding a common ground. Some cannot be solved because of their nature and these should be managed,” he added.
As the UAE looks forward, it should not only work to boost its competitiveness, but also keep an eye on global shifts. “Given that the UAE is an active country in the international order, we must continue to observe these changes in a rational manner. We must be able to live in a difficult regional order by building platforms for collaboration and political dialogue that enable security and joint investment,” he said.
The nation must also continue to maintain its fine balance between preserving its values, Dr Gargash urged. “We need to preserve our values and we recognise that there is a need for change. It is a delicate balance, but there has to be a balance between the two and this is the focus of our wise leadership,” he said.
UAE model works
The diplomat also rejected the autocracy-democracy dichotomy presented in western politics. “Many western politicians have tried to ideologically frame our contemporary world from the dual perspective of either democratic or authoritarian regimes. This approach is unacceptable as it represents part of western propaganda and is an attempt to stick to a West-oriented international order that rejects the current reality. Diversification and different historical experiences reject this approach. What is suitable for one country is not necessarily suitable for another country. Each country has its own frameworks, culture, capabilities and potential and builds its model based on its reality, rather than copying another’s example, which might prove harmful. It is now clear that imposing this vision during the so-called Arab Spring proved catastrophic for our region and dismantled the nation-state in some cases,” Dr Gargash explained.
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“In this diversity, the issue of governance emerges, which includes institutions, justice and stability, and a set of values that are consistent with the experience of countries and helps them realise their ambitions for development and progress. The UAE, in the context of strengthening its regional and international position, is keen on governance, both at the level of strengthening the rule of law and transparency, combating corruption and adopting the values of tolerance. People’s trust in their leadership and government here is merely a reflection of this,” he added.