Following the commitment between India and Pakistan military chiefs to respect a 2003 cease-fire agreement, the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister popped over to New Delhi for a quick one-day visit, international news agency Bloomberg reported.
Reaffirming an extraordinary friendship.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) February 26, 2021
On February 26, the UAE minister had a discussion with Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, noting they “discussed all regional and international issues of common interest and exchanged views on them,” the agency reported.
“Yet behind closed doors, the India-Pakistan cease-fire marked a milestone in secret talks brokered by the UAE that began months earlier,” the agency report said quoting officials aware of the situation.
The cease-fire is only the beginning of a larger roadmap to forge a lasting peace between the neighbours, both of which have nuclear weapons and spar regularly over a decades-old territory dispute, the report quoted the official as saying.
The report quoting officials said the next step in the process involves both sides reinstating envoys in New Delhi and Islamabad, who were pulled in 2019 after Pakistan protested India’s move to revoke seven decades of autonomy for the disputed Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Then comes the hard part: Talks on resuming trade and a lasting resolution on Kashmir, the subject of three wars since India and Pakistan became independent from Britain in 1947.
Over the years, India and Pakistan have routinely made peace overtures only to have them quickly fall through, particularly as both sides frequently use the issue to stir up emotions around election time. Officials said expectations were low that the current detente would achieve much beyond the return of envoys and a resumption of trade through their Punjab land border, the report said.
But this process appears to be the most concerted effort in years, and comes as the Biden administration is seeking wider peace talks on Afghanistan — a place both countries for years have battled for influence. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to shore up growth and focus military resources on the border with China, while Pakistan’s leaders are also facing economic woes and looking to make a good impression with the U.S. and other powers, the report said.
The report mentioned that Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry didn’t comment on the talks or the role of the UAE, while the foreign ministries of India and the UAE had no immediate comment.
Last week Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa asked India “to bury the past and move forward” while saying the military was ready to enter talks to resolve “all our outstanding issues”. The comments came a day after Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan called for a resolution on Kashmir, which he described as “the one issue that holds us back.”
The UAE, which has historic trade and diplomatic links with India and Pakistan, has taken a more assertive international role under de facto ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the report said.
The biggest shift has been in the Middle East where the Gulf Arab state has intervened in conflicts and backed groups and regional leaders. But it has also looked to Asia as it strengthens political alliances beyond its role as a global trade and logistics hub.
India-Pakistan ties were effectively cut off two years ago after a suicide attack in Kashmir killing 40 armed forces personnel, prompting Modi’s government to hold airstrikes on alleged militant facilities inside Pakistan. The joint statement last month said the two sides “agreed to address each other’s core issues,” signalling a wider discussion on Kashmir and militancy.
After the cease-fire, the report said UAE was one of a handful of countries to issue a statement welcoming the cease-fire announcement, highlighting the “close historical ties” it has with both India and Pakistan and hailing “the efforts made by both countries to come to this agreement.”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price dodged a question on what role the U.S. played in bringing the two sides together while urging Pakistan to play a constructive role in Afghanistan, Kashmir and other places, Bloomberg reported.