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Roughly 24 hours after the military chiefs of India and Pakistan stunned the world last month with a rare joint pledge to abide by a 2003 ceasefire agreement, the UAE’s top diplomat traveled to New Delhi for a quick one day visit.
United Arab Emirates official Reading the February 26 meeting gave few clues as to what Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed spoke with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, noting that they “discussed all regional and international issues of common concern. and they exchanged views on them. “
However, behind closed doors, the ceasefire between India and Pakistan marked a milestone in secret talks brokered by the UAE that began months earlier, according to officials aware of the situation who asked not to be identified. The ceasefire, said one, is just the beginning of one road map to forge a lasting peace between neighbors, who have nuclear weapons and fight regularly during a decades-long territorial dispute.
The next step in the process, the official said, involves both sides reinstating the envoys in New Delhi and Islamabad, who were withdrawn in 2019 after Pakistan protested India’s decision to revoke seven decades of autonomy for the disputed state. Muslim majority from Jammu and Kashmir. Then comes the hard part: talks about resuming trade and a lasting resolution on Kashmir, the subject of three wars since India and Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947.
Over the years, India and Pakistan have routinely made peace proposals only to have them fail quickly, especially 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 well beyond the return of the envoys and the resumption of trade through its land border from Punjab.
But this process appears to be the most concerted effort in years, coming as the Biden administration seeks broader peace talks on Afghanistan, a place where both countries have for years struggled for influence. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to shore up growth and focus military resources on the border with China, while Pakistani leaders also face economic problems and seek to make a good impression on the United States and other powers.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry did not comment on the talks or the role of the UAE, while the foreign ministries of India and the UAE did not immediately comment.
Last week, the chief of Pakistan’s army, General Qamar Javed Bajwa he called on India to “bury the past and move on” while saying that the army was ready for talks to solve “all of our outstanding problems”. The comments came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan called for a resolution on Kashmir, which he described as “the only problem holding us back.”
On Saturday, Modi sent a tweet wishing Khan luck after he was diagnosed with Covid-19, another sign that relations between the countries are getting warmer.
The UAE, which has historic trade and diplomatic ties with India and Pakistan, has assumed a more assertive international role under de facto ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The biggest change has occurred in the Middle East, where the Arab Gulf state has intervened in conflicts and supported regional groups and leaders. But he has also looked to Asia as it strengthens political alliances beyond its role as a global center for trade and logistics.
Ties between India and Pakistan were effectively severed two years ago after a suicide attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed 40 Indian soldiers, prompting the Modi government to authorize airstrikes against suspected terror facilities inside Pakistan. the Last month’s joint statement said the two sides “agreed to address each other’s core issues,” indicating a broader discussion on Kashmir and terrorism.
Several clues in recent months pointed to the role of the United Arab Emirates. In November, Jaishankar met with bin Zayed and the crown prince on a two-day visit to Abu Dhabi, followed by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi the following month. About two weeks before the February 25 announcement, the UAE Foreign Minister he had a phone call with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan “in which they discussed regional and international issues of interest.” And just days earlier, India allowed Khan’s plane to fly over Indian airspace as it headed to Sri Lanka for a state visit, a practice suspended since hostilities in 2019.
After the ceasefire, the United Arab Emirates was one of the few countries that issued a declaration of welcome to the announcement of the ceasefire, highlighting the “close historical ties” that it has with both India and Pakistan and praising “the efforts made by both countries to reach this agreement.” In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price dodged a question about the role the United States played in bringing the two sides together, while urging Pakistan to play a constructive role in Afghanistan, Kashmir and elsewhere.
“Obviously, Pakistan has an important role to play when it comes to Afghanistan and what happens on the other side of its other border,” Price said on February 25. “Obviously we will pay close attention.”
– With the help of Sylvia Westall and Faseeh Mangi