John Henry Temple, one of the most famous kings of Britain, once said, “There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests.” This quote delineates today’s relations between Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) and Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) in every way. Both were friends at one time, but now, they are rivals. They are in a race to dominate each other and to hold superiority.

It looks like a new fault line is built in West Asia; the fault line between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Clashes, policy differences, and competition now unfold the curtain from camouflaged rivalry. The main reason for MBS and MBZ’s rivalry is the personality clash. Both have overwhelmingly warm personalities. Neither of them is ready to accept the dominance of the other one. It is why MBZ didn’t attend the Arab Summit in 2022 when even the Chinese President was there. Besides, he didn’t even attend the recent Arab Summit, though, in this Summit, Syria was integrated after 12 years.

It is said that MBZ didn’t attend these summits because he knew he would be considered a secondary player there. Likewise, MBS has accused MBZ that he is lobbying against him in the West. MBS has remarks against MBZ or UAE, saying, “It will be worse than what I did with Qatar.” These incidents show the superiority complex in both personalities.

Both states are in a race to grab the chair of Arab world leadership. KSA and UAE are some of the largest economies of the Gulf World, so they want to grab the leadership status of the Middle Eastern countries. For this, MBS has taken many steps, and the allocation of Oil quota is one of them. Though MBZ was not happy with that decision, he was compelled to reinforce it at that time. After that incident, two long-standing allies became competitors. In response to this incident, MBZ has also taken stern steps. The major one is that he pulled out his forces from YEMEN and left KSA alone for a fight. These instances show that the rivalry has gone beyond that of Manchester City and New Castle United.

Diversifying KSA’s economy also enhances the rivalry between MBS and MBZ. It is known that technology is the next big thing; therefore, Muhammad Bin Salman has a vision to diversify KSA’s economy from oil to multiple domains.

This is implicitly a grave threat to Muhammad Bin Zayed’s UAE. This is because UAE’s 75% plus economy is based upon tourism and distinct multi-national companies’ (MNCs) regional headquarters. Now, MBS is fully determined to diversify KSA’s economy, so he is taking many steps. For instance, bringing multiple big football stars to the KSA football league and concerts of Bollywood stars in Riyadh are some prominent actions MBS took.

Both MBS and MBZ have differences because of their foreign policy objectives. At one time, both states were cooperating and assisting each other on multiple issues, but time and interest have changed, and so has foreign policy. Now, both countries’ national interests are in the direction of the North and South Poles; therefore, long-standing allies are now rivals at one time. Pulling back of forces from Yemen by MBZ and normalization of ties between IRAN and KSA are some of the conspicuous examples of it. These instances show that Muhammad Bin Salman and Muhammad Bin Zayed face each other.

Although both states are on the brink of explicit rivalry, both states are still imperative for the Islamic world. KSA and UAE cannot be ignored in the Muslim world. Both states are some of the largest and strongest economies in the Muslim world. Besides, many Muslim countries’ diaspora is living in both countries. For instance, the diaspora of many countries like Bangladesh, Philippines, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, and many more are living and working there. Therefore, their influence and importance cannot be ignored. Besides, both KSA and UAE have great ties with the Muslim world. Therefore, no Muslim country can afford their intense rivalry.

Both states, MBS’s KSA and MBZ’s UAE, are imperative for Pakistan. Pakistan has very strong ties with both countries. It is because both countries have assisted Pakistan many times. Besides, Pakistan is also dependent upon both states, KSA and UAE.

Approximately 1.2 million people of Pakistan are living in UAE. Likewise, more than 2 million individuals are residing in KSA.

Their remittances are a huge help for Pakistan to retain its foreign reserves. Moreover, oil dependency, loans, aid, and many other factors also enhance both states’ importance for Pakistan. Therefore, it can be said that the rivalry between MBS and MBZ or KSA and UAE is not bearable for

Pakistan’s foreign policy should be balanced for both states. It is because both countries are extremely important to Pakistan, and a little tilt toward one state would upset the other and have dire consequences for the country. Therefore, Pakistan is required to follow a balanced approach. Here are some thoughts that Pakistan can follow to build a balanced approach for both KSA and UAE. Firstly, Pakistan must mediate between MBS and MBZ and bring both personalities for a talk. It is because both statesmen have talked for the last year. Therefore, it is need of the hour to bring them back on the table, and Pakistan can do this.

Secondly, Pakistan should support KSA’s decision regarding the diversification of the economy. Every state has realized that technology will be the next tool for domination. Therefore, MBS has every right to think about his country’s interests. However, Pakistan should oppose MBS’s statement regarding UAE, which is already mentioned above. Likewise, the country is required to assist the adjudication of MBZ regarding pulling out his forces from Yemen. It is because every state has the right to independent foreign policy, but Pakistan should also oppose the MBZ’s adjudication regarding not participating in Arab Summits.

Thirdly, Pakistan needs to urge both personalities, MBS and MBZ, to cooperate regarding the decision for the Arab world. This is because both countries are considered the strongest countries in the Middle East. Their rivalry would further divide the already divided Arab world, which will have grave consequences, even more than the Arab Spring. Therefore, Pakistan should play a pivotal role in overcoming this rift and urge both states or personalities to cooperate because this will be in their favor and the Muslim world’s favor.

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