Thursday Apr 15, 2021
DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates is mediating between India and Pakistan to help the nuclear-armed rivals reach a “healthy and functional” relationship, confirmed the Gulf state's envoy to Washington.
In January, top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in a renewed effort to calm military tension over 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 which India accused Pakistan of backing, and which Pakistan has always maintained was a home-grown attack perpetrated by disillusioned Kashmiri youth.
The incident eventually led to India sending warplanes to Pakistan for an unsuccessful mission that ended with the planes dropping their payload on a hillside in Balakot. Pakistan retaliated soon after, capturing an Indian pilot and downing two Indian jets in the process.
Later that year, India’s prime minister withdrew Indian-occupied 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.