Updated: April 16, 2021 5:36:50 am
In the first official confirmation of the United Arab Emirates playing a role in bringing Delhi and Islamabad to the talks table, the UAE’s envoy to the US has said that his country is mediating between India and Pakistan to help them reach a “healthy and functional” relationship.
Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said: “We try to be helpful, where we have influence with two different countries, so India-Pakistan was the most recent one.” He cited media reports which he said “highlighted the role the UAE played in bringing the Kashmir escalation down and sort of created a ceasefire, hopefully, ultimately leading to restoring diplomats and getting the relationship back to a healthy level”.
In a conversation Wednesday with former US National Security Advisor H R McMaster under the aegis of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, the UAE envoy, in response to question whether his country was trying to help the two countries have a better relationship, said: “Absolutely. They might not sort of become best friends, but at least we want to get it to a level where it’s functional, where it’s operational, where they are speaking to each other, where there’s lines of communication and that’s our goal.”
“You know we don’t think they’re going to become, you know, Most Favoured Nations with each other, but I think it’s important for them to have a healthy, functional relationship, which is exactly our objective,” Al Otaiba said
Officials say India and Pakistan have been “carefully optimistic” of the steps taken in recent months. The February announcement to adhere to the ceasefire pact, the Indus Water Treaty talks in March after over two years, and demands within Pakistan to import cotton and sugar from India have made the two sides look at the next steps of engagement.
The discussion was on the theme ‘UAE: US Policy In The Middle East And Prospects For Peace And Economic Growth In A Troubled Region’.
This official confirmation came on the day the Reuters news agency reported that top intelligence officers from India’s R&AW and Pakistan’s ISI held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tensions over Jammu and Kashmir.
In February, the militaries of India and Pakistan announced adherence to ceasefire agreements along the Line of Control — a sign of thaw amid the chill in ties.
Soon after, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan “welcomed” the ceasefire agreement with India.
This, according to sources, was possible since India and Pakistan have been holding back-channel talks for the last three months leading to the February announcement, with NSA Ajit Doval leading the Indian initiative with Pakistan’s civilian-military leadership.
Sources said while Doval had met his counterpart Moeed Yusuf, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on security affairs, in a third country, he had also kept communication channels open with Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Yusuf, because of his proximity to Khan as well as the military, and Bajwa, due to the power the Pakistani Army wields, were both crucial links in the chain.
Last month, the two Prime Ministers exchanged messages after Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent greetings on Pakistan’s National Day on March 23.
Ties between India and Pakistan have been frozen since 2016, and the Pulwama terror attack in February 2019 worsened the situation. This was followed by the Balakot airstrikes, retaliatory strikes by Pakistan and the capture of an Indian pilot who was later released.
In August 2019, after India revoked the special status of J&K under Article 370, and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties, forcing India to do the same. This also led to snapping of trade ties.
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