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Mon 2 Dec 2013 01:36 PM

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Dubai to benefit from Middle East instability - Pillai

Former Ambassador to Iran Gopinath Pillai also says Arab Spring will not 'change the world'

Dubai to benefit from Middle East instability - Pillai

Former long-time Singapore Ambassador to Iran Gopinath Pillai says he is not optimistic the Arab uprisings will “change the world” and describes Iran’s situation as “looking better”.

However, he believes a stable and safe city such as Dubai will benefit from the storm around it.

Pillai, now Ambassador-at-Large, was Singapore’s first non-resident Ambassador to Iran between 1990 and 2008.

He said the revolutions taking place in the Middle East would “take a little time”.

“I’m not optimistic it is going to change the world, I’m not even sure that it is going to yield the sort of results that Obama expects out of it,” he said in an interview published in Arabian Business.

“I hope it doesn’t spin out of control, that things get worse than what it was.

“When you replace something you must have something to put into the vacuum. If you don’t have, then chaos prevails and that’s my fear. Chaos is not a good thing for any part of the world, so you’ve got to wait and see how things happen.”

Pillai, who said he was drawn to Iran because of its history and culture and the belief it had a “a role to play”, said “things are looking better”.

Speaking before the recent US-Iran nuclear disarmament deal, he said that in President Hassan Rouhani the country had an opportunity to re-engage with the west after what he described as a missed opportunity with reformist President Mohammad Khatami and the backlash to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which set back the relationship with the west.

“Rouhani has been given this opportunity by the supreme ruler, because they feel that Iran needs to establish the dialogue with the west,” Pillai said.

“There can be a positive. They are a very ancient civilization and I think there can be a positive just like there can be a negative if it is not properly handled.”

Pillai, who was in Dubai for the third instalment of the Majlis Singapura Distnguished Speakers Series in October, said the challenge was whether Dubai could stay peaceful and stable amid a “rather volatile situation”.

“Even in a storm, someone would look for some place where they can take shelter and Dubai can claim that, to be the shelter for those who are somewhat disillusioned or somewhat displaced,” he said.

“Whether it’s Libya, Egypt, Syria, money will go to somewhere that is stable and has got policies which are predictable and transparent. It doesn’t change with the day, it doesn’t change with the rule – it is just there. If I come in with $100mil, I will know exactly how it is being looked after. That assurance must be there (and) I think Dubai has got that situation.”

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall