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Pak Army chief discusses defence ties, bilateral cooperation with UAE president

ISLAMABAD (PTI):  Pakistan's Army chief General Asim Munir has met UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and reviewed bilateral ties and cooperation in the defence and military sectors, seeking to strengthen the relationship with the key Gulf ally as the cash-strapped country faces a dire economic situation.

General Munir, who arrived in the Gulf emirate on the second leg of his week-long visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE - his first official trip abroad since assuming office in November last year - met Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed on Monday.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the two key supporters of Pakistan who come to its rescue when the chips are down.

Sheikh Mohamed congratulated Gen Munir on assuming the charge as Pakistan's Army chief and expressed his wishes for the new role, the state-run WAM news agency reported.

General Munir, who has headed Pakistan's both powerful spy agencies - the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI), assumed charge as the new Army chief in November end, replacing General Qamar Javed Bajwa who retired after two consecutive three-year terms.

"During the meeting, the two sides reviewed cooperative relations and joint work between the UAE and Pakistan in defence and military affairs, as well as ways to strengthen them to serve the common interests of the two friendly countries," it said.

The meeting was attended by UAE's National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Court Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other core members of the UAE government.

His visit comes ahead of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's two-day trip to the Gulf country on January 12-13. This would be the Prime Minister's third visit to the UAE after assuming office in April last. He will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including key members of the Cabinet, the Foreign Office here announced on Tuesday.

During his visit, Sharif will meet Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, with particular focus on advancing economic, trade and investment ties between the two countries and creating increased opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in the UAE, it said.

They will also exchange views on a range of regional and global issues of mutual interest. Prime Minister Sharif will also hold meetings with Emirati businessmen and investors to discuss ways to enhance bilateral trade and investment, the FO added.

The back-to-back visits of top military and civil leadership from Pakistan come as the cash-strapped country is battling to fix its economic and political fissures amidst a parochial political rivalry between former premier Imran Khan and the current government.

Pakistan faces a serious crisis as its foreign reserves are down to USD 5.8 billion, which includes deposits worth USD 5 billion from Saudi Arabia and China with specific conditions of use.

Pakistan's economic situation is facing severe headwinds with inflation being forecast to stay high between 21-23 per cent and the country's fiscal deficit widening by more than 115 per cent in the first four months (July-October) of the current fiscal year.

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