x

Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Saudi National Day a cause for regional celebration

The UAE and the Kingdom are neighbours who share far more than a border and a language

National Day celebrations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters
National Day celebrations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters

The two nations were founded 39 years apart, under very different circumstances.

But as celebrations across the UAE marking Saudi Arabia’s 88th National Day tomorrow attest, the two neighbours share much more than a 500-kilometre border.

Bound in strategic partnership since 1981 as members of the Gulf Co-operation Council, above all the two are united by the timeless commonalities of language, heritage and faith.

They are also linked by oil-driven economies and a mutual determination to diversify away from reliance on the substance that transformed their fortunes in their early days.

Over the past few years, the familial bonds tying together the UAE and Saudi Arabia have grown ever closer. The first meeting of the Saudi-Emirati Co-ordination Council in June signalled increased collaboration in defence, crime, politics and culture.

Both nations have already responded as one to challenges in the region, presenting a united front against Qatar’s embrace of the destabilising influence of Iran and jointly committing aid and troops to the fight against the rebel insurgency in Yemen.

But it is not merely in the heat of conflict that the two allies have forged the closest of alliances. It is in the shared bonds of culture, tradition and heritage that they enjoy a brotherly solidarity, with the motto “together, forever”.

The march to modernity has seen both making great strides but the past year has been a significant one for Saudi Arabia.

Few could have predicted the sweeping social reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman under the direction of King Salman, but they have been transformative.

Of course, Saudi Arabia has a unique responsibility to the entire Islamic world as the protector of the holy sites.

The imperatives of modernity and the tenets of Islam can, and must, exist side by side.

At a time when much of the region is in disarray, the two nations’ collective ambition stands as a beacon of what Arabs can achieve when united “with one pulse”, in the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.