x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Historic links are cemented with day of pageantry

Emiratis and Britons are united in their mutual respect, and long may they work together in their mutual interests.

No one does pomp and ceremony better than the British, and there will be plenty of spectacle attached to today's historic meeting between the President, Sheikh Khalifa, and Queen Elizabeth. From a luncheon at Windsor Castle to a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the pageantry will no doubt yield endless photo ops.

But today's historic welcome for the UAE's President will also have much greater significance than pure symbolism. Ties between our two nations have never been stronger.

Today is about celebrating these links.

As The National has reported, the state visit was initiated by the Queen herself, and it will cement not only a long-standing friendship between two royal families but also an enduring connection between two nations. There is a strong and proud Emirati community in London, and many thousands of Britons living and working here in the UAE. Links extend from the oil industry, defence, finance and property to education, health care, tourism - and even football. What red, green and black-blooded Emirati doesn't support Manchester City, after all?

Much has happened in the 24 years since Sheikh Zayed was welcomed to London with similar honours to those his son will be afforded today. From the solid foundations set by Sheikh Zayed, the UAE has continued its phenomenal growth into a modern, prosperous nation, while retaining respect for its history, culture and tradition. The relationship with Britain extends well beyond the 41-year existence of the UAE, but it is in the modern era that it has equalised and flourished.

To be sure, there will always be differences between nations, but that's another reason why visits like this, and continuing dialogue, are important.

Away from the ceremonial aspects of today and tomorrow, there will be talks among politicians and diplomats, possibly leading in the short-term to relaxed visa restrictions for Emiratis visiting the UK. Business leaders will also forge and renew links to ensure that strong partnerships thrive for many years to come; the UAE ranks as the UK's 13th largest export market, and the value of trade between the two nations is expected to reach Dh70 billion by 2015. Energy and military matters are also likely to be discussed.

The UAE and Britain are united in mutual respect, and occasions such as Sheikh Khalifa's visit can only work to bolster mutual interests.