Photographer: Aamir Qureshi / AFP / Getty Images
Photographer: Aamir Qureshi / AFP / Getty Images
About 24 hours after Indian and Pakistani military leaders surprised the world last month with a rare joint pledge to honor a 2003 ceasefire agreement, the UAE’s top diplomat visited New Delhi for a quick one-day visit.
The UAE’s official reading of the February 26 meeting gave little indication of what Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed spoke with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, noting that they “discussed all regional issues and international organizations of common interest and exchanged views on them ”.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed
Photographer: Hannibal Hanschke / AFP / Getty Images
Still, behind closed doors, the Indo-Pakistani ceasefire marked a milestone in secret UAE-brokered talks that began months earlier, according to officials familiar with the situation who asked not to. be identified. The ceasefire, it has been said, is just the start of a broader roadmap to forge lasting peace between neighbors, both of whom have nuclear weapons and fight regularly over the course of the years. ‘a decades-old territorial dispute.
The next step in the process, the official said, involves both sides reinstating envoys in New Delhi and Islamabad, which were withdrawn in 2019 after Pakistan protested India’s decision to revoke seven decades of autonomy for the contested Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. Then comes the hardest 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.
An Indian Army soldier stands guard near the line of control with Pakistan in Kashmir in 2020.
Photographer: Money Sharma / AFP / Getty Images
Over the years, India and Pakistan have regularly made peace overtures to quickly fail them, especially as both sides frequently use the issue to stir up emotions at election time. Officials said expectations were low that the current detente would work well beyond the return of the envoys and resumption of trade across their Punjab land border.
But the process appears to be the most concerted effort in years, and comes as the Biden administration seeks to expand peace negotiations over Afghanistan – a place where the two countries have fought for years for their influence. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to support growth and focus military resources on the border with China, while Pakistani leaders also face economic hardship and seek to make a good impression on the United States and other powers. .
Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not comment on the talks or the role of the UAE, while the Indian and UAE foreign ministries made no immediate comment.
Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa last week called on India to “bury the past and move forward”, saying the military was ready to move forward. start talks to resolve “all our outstanding issues”. 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 well after being diagnosed with Covid-19 – another sign that relations between the countries are heating up.
The United Arab Emirates, which has historic trade and diplomatic ties with India and Pakistan, assumed a more assertive international role under de facto ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The most significant change has occurred in the Middle East, where the Arab Gulf state has intervened in conflicts and supported regional groups and leaders. But it has also turned to Asia as it strengthens political alliances beyond its role as a global trade and logistics hub.
Indo-Pakistani relations were effectively severed two years ago after a suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed 40 Indian soldiers, prompting Modi’s government to allow airstrikes on suspected terrorist facilities in inside Pakistan. Last month’s joint statement said the two sides “agreed to address fundamental issues mutually,” signaling a broader discussion on Kashmir and terrorism.
Indian security forces inspect the remains of a vehicle following an attack on a convoy of paramilitary forces in Kashmir on February 14, 2019.
Photographer: STR / AFP / Getty Images
Several clues in recent months have highlighted the role of the UAE. In November, Jaishankar met 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 had a telephone interview with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan “during which they discussed regional and international issues of concern.” And days earlier, India had cleared Khan’s plane 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 to issue a statement welcoming the announcement of the ceasefire, stressing its “close historical ties” with India. and Pakistan and welcoming “the efforts of both countries to come to this agreement.” In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price dodged a question about the role of the United States 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 is happening across its other border,” Price said on February 25. “So it is clear that we will pay special attention to it.”
– With the help of Sylvia Westall and Faseeh Mangi
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