Britain and the UAE have long been partners in many fields, from oil exploration to defence and security operations. Collaborative ventures at government and private-enterprise levels have been conducted in the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, for mutual benefit.
However, there is one area where the relationship is decidedly lopsided. While the UAE allows British citizens, like citizens of many other nations, to enter the country on a visa-free basis for tourism purposes, the UK does not reciprocate.
As reported in The National yesterday, this may be about to change - and it should. Simon Fraser, a senior foreign policy adviser to British foreign secretary William Hague, has been in the UAE following up on the visit of Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this month. Mr Fraser said Mr Cameron had given a "very positive indication that we will have progress in that area ... in the near future".
We urge the British government to move quickly on this matter in acknowledgement of the long-standing friendship between the two countries. Ideally, an easing of travel restrictions would provide an example to European nations in the Schengen zone as well as the United States.
There are plenty of anecdotes of unfair travel barriers for Arabs, and Emiratis in particular. This is clear from simple statistics: Britons can travel to 167 countries visa free - only two fewer than the Danes, who top the list. Americans can travel to 166 countries, Australians to 163, Poles to 150, Guatemalans to 109 and Russians to 94. UAE citizens can travel to only 70 countries without first obtaining a visa.
The visa-application process can require fingerprints, previous passports, marriage certificates, bank statements and salary details. Applicants pay a fee - a minimum of $129 (Dh 474) in the case of the UK - and may even have an intrusive interview.
It is undeniable that all nations have a right to protect their borders. But surely modern biometric passport technology, and international police and security cooperation, make some of these steps redundant. If individuals are considered undesirable or a security threat, in most cases they will be identified whether they have a visa or not.
The UAE is engaging with these countries, in particular Britain, on the basis of equal partnership; Emiratis have strong bonds with friends and families here and abroad. It is time to re-evaluate these antiquated visa rules.