x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

A development plan for Pakistan's future

A US apology for killing Pakistani soldiers, and the re-opening of a Nato supply line into Afghanistan, are two small steps on a long road.

For the UAE, relations with Pakistan are integral to the national character. After the federation announced its formation in 1971, Pakistan was the third country to recognise it. In addition to the history, however, there is a partnership model for how both Pakistan and Afghanistan will recover from the last decade of conflict.

The UAE has been active in the area since early in the war, working on development projects and reaching out to fellow Muslims in Afghanistan. This has included $250 million (Dh918 million) in grants for reconstruction projects and over Dh80 million in aid in 2010 alone.

As The National has reported in recent days, that development support has been on both sides of the Durand Line. In Pakistan, the UAE has rebuilt schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, and provided clean water and sanitation. Most recently, Abu Dhabi announced funding for 40 new schools in flood-affected areas, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and in South Waziristan tribal agency.

Development funds, far more than foreign military forces, can contribute to curbing extremism and establishing security in both countries. The backdrop to these projects, of course, is the day-after-day dismal headlines. The security situation in Pakistan has been defined by the war across the border in Afghanistan, and the US drone strikes that continue to poison popular sentiment. After the US apology on Tuesday for the November air strike in Salala that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, Islamabad agreed to reopen Nato supply routes.

Papering over the problems between the two reluctant allies should not obscure a more fundamental problem: as the United States winds down its war effort, Afghans and Pakistanis will be left to deal with the aftermath. The security situation in both countries is arguably more chaotic than before the US invasion and will have spillover effects for Central Asia and beyond.

A military solution was never going to work in the region. Development efforts could. The UAE's efforts are born of decades of friendship and affinity, but they also offer a lesson. These countries' security, and the security of the region, will be built one school at a time.