UAE is Mediating Between India, Pakistan for Conflict De-escalation, says Senior Diplomat

UAE played a role in bringing Kashmir escalation down, created a ceasefire

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The United Arab Emirates’ envoy to Washington confirmed the Gulf state is mediating between India and Pakistan to help the nuclear-armed rivals reach a “healthy and functional” relationship.

Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tension over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, people with knowledge of the matter had told Reuters.

Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said in a virtual discussion with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution on Wednesday that the UAE played a role “in bringing Kashmir escalation down and created a ceasefire, hopefully ultimately leading to restoring diplomats and getting the relationship back to a healthy level”.

“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,” he said.

Ties between India and Pakistan have been frozen since a suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir in 2019.

Later that year, India’s prime minister withdrew Indian-ruled Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten his grip over the territory, provoking outrage in Pakistan and the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade.

Otaiba also said that Pakistan should play a helpful role in Afghanistan, where the United States plans to start withdrawing US troops on May 1 to end America’s longest war.

The Emirati official voiced concern that an abrupt US withdrawal would constitute “reverse progress” by serving the interests of “the more illiberal forces” in Afghanistan.

“The question is if the three parties (the US, Taliban and Afghan government) can reach an agreement that they can all live with,” Otaiba said.

“It’s hard for us to see a way to stabilise Afghanistan without Pakistan playing a helpful role,” he added.

Turkey is due to host a peace summit for Afghanistan from April 24 to May 4 meant to jump-start efforts to end the war and sketch out a possible political settlement.

But Ayesha Siddiqa, a defence analyst, said she believed Pakistani and Indian intelligence officials had been meeting for several months in third countries.

“I think there have been meetings in Thailand, in Dubai, in London between the highest level people,” she said. Such meetings have taken place in the past too, especially during times of crises but never been publicly acknowledged.

“There is a lot that can still go wrong, it is fraught,” said one of the people in Delhi. “That is why nobody is talking it up in public, we don’t even have a name for this, and it’s not a peace process. You can call it a re-engagement,” one of them said.

“It’s better for India and Pakistan to talk than not talk, and even better that it should be done quietly than in a glare of publicity,” said Myra MacDonald, author of a book on the Kashmir hostilities.

“But I don’t see it going very far beyond a basic management of tensions, possibly to tide both countries over a difficult period. Pakistan needs to address the fallout of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, while India has to confront a far more volatile situation on its disputed frontier with China.”

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