x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE demonstrates its ‘model power’

The tripartite talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UN is an example

Power comes in many forms. The most obvious is hard power, the exercise of military might. Soft power can be as decisive, but also harder to define: it comes in cultural power, or in the offer of help by one country to another nation. The UAE’s authority is growing in both, but it also has a third dimension, an ability to influence that comes in the quiet exercise of financial and technical assistance, expertise and specialised support for several countries, without trying to impose its will or ideology on the people of those nations. That type of power has yielded one of the most valuable prizes in international diplomacy: a trusting ear.

This confidence will be on display today when Dubai hosts the 24th Tripartite Commission meeting with representatives from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United Nations. The aim of the meeting, as The National reported yesterday, is to review pilot projects set up in Afghan villages to encourage an estimated 1.6 million refugees living in Pakistan to return to their homes.

The UAE has been at the forefront of providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan for many years as part of its support to the Afghan government in its effort to restore security in the country. Last year, Afghanistan received Dh5.5bn in aid towards infrastructure projects such as roads, schools, mosques and hospitals. Similarly, assistance is extended to Pakistan, where the UAE has led health, education and water projects.

The country’s commitment is not limited to aid. It has also helped local Afghan leaders to mobilise support in their fight against extremism. It is this all-encompassing approach that distinguishes the UAE’s efforts to achieve its objectives in those nations, among others. And that’s why both the Afghans and the Pakistanis trust the UAE to host the talks. The UAE can sometimes seem to whisper, but when it does, leaders listen.

That’s the power the UAE finds itself wielding. Call it “model power” – not the big stick of US power, nor the tasty carrot of French culture, but the ability to be trusted as a model of a modern, open, successful, Muslim nation. It is no wonder that other nations, Muslim and otherwise, look to the UAE and say: “Let’s listen to what they are telling us.” That is a power that cannot be measured and should not be underestimated.