x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Singapore seeks to strengthen UAE ties

The country's foreign minister is due to arrive in the UAE for an official visit - the first by a foreign minister since 1996.

Umej Bhatia, Singapore’s ambassador to the UAE, says both countries have a lot in common. Ravindranath K / The National
Umej Bhatia, Singapore’s ambassador to the UAE, says both countries have a lot in common. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // The arrival of Singapore’s foreign minister, K Shanmugam, to the UAE tonight heralds a new era of political, diplomatic and economic ties between the two states, according to the country’s ambassador.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also the law minister, will visit the leadership during his two-day official visit and his counterparts, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Dr Hadef Al Dhaheri, Minister of Justice.

According to Singapore’s ambassador to the UAE, Umej Bhatia, this will be the first visit by a foreign minister from his country since 1996.

“The UAE has seen Singapore as a model and, in the Abu Dhabi 2030 vision, it was highlighted among four nations for the vision to be built on,” Mr Bhatia said. “We, however, believe that it is a two-way street – there is much to learn from the UAE as well – and we are looking to develop long-term economic development ties.”

Mr Shanmugam and Sheikh Abdullah are set to sign a Singapore-UAE Joint Commission memorandum of understanding.

This will set the framework for the commission to enhance relations between the two countries from a political, economic and bilateral perspective, Mr Bhatia said.

“This is about Singapore and the UAE becoming twin hubs for their respective regions,” he said. “If you look around us in the world today geopolitically, Europe has a debt crisis and the US is still resilient but has its own problems.

“The way forward is east – east cooperation, whether it be in the Middle East or Asia.”

Mr Bhatia said the Singapore foreign minister hoped to present the island nation as a window to the East Asian region.

“We want to help the UAE understand the developments of this region, and the UAE can help Singapore within the Middle East,” he said.

“Also, 15 to 17 per cent of Singaporeans are Muslim and some of the currents of radicalism has come to us.

“The UAE is a great, moderate society and cooperation in the future for this particular field is important.”

Mr Bhatia said trade between the two had grown by 25 per cent between 2011 and last year.

“In 2012 two-way trade was Dh76.5 billion, with Dh58.8bn worth of imports to the UAE and Dh17.7bn exports from the UAE,” he said.

“There are a lot of affinities between the UAE and Singapore; they are both small yet highly developed and both are successful and share a lot in common with their principled and pragmatic foreign policies.”