(This was originally posted in The Print by Nayanima Basu)
New Delhi: It’s destination Abu Dhabi for External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar as well as his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi as the Gulf country said it is playing mediator between the nuclear-armed neighbours to ease tensions that have peaked over Kashmir.
While Qureshi embarked on a three-day trip to Abu Dhabi Saturday, Jaishankar will be visiting the UAE capital Sunday where he will be holding meetings with the senior leadership there. He is expected to return late Sunday evening or early Monday morning. Jaishankar has been invited to Abu Dhabi by UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“At the invitation of his counterpart, EAM @DrSJaishankar will be visiting Abu Dhabi on 18th April 2021. His discussions will focus on economic cooperation and community welfare,” Arindam Bagchi, Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, said in a tweet.
Sources have told ThePrint that the visit is crucial as both ministers may finally talk to each other, which might open the floodgates for more talks. This may also lead to a step towards normalising diplomatic ties between the two nations since they had recalled their respective envoys in 2019 in the aftermath of the scrapping of Article 370.
The first step towards a potential thaw in relationship will be appointing High Commissioners in each other’s country. Subsequently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may also attend the SAARC Summit which will take place in Islamabad later this year, according to sources.
The SAARC summit has been pending since 2016 following tensions between India and Pakistan over the Uri attack.
Both Jaishankar and Qureshi came to face to face at the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process at Dushanbe, Tajikistan last month. However, they did not speak to each other.
UAE wants ‘functional and operational’ ties between India, Pak
The visit by foreign ministers of the two countries assumes significance considering the UAE’s recent statement that it is mediating between New Delhi and Islamabad in order for them to achieve a “functional and operational” relationship.
Earlier this week, the UAE’s envoy to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba said the UAE did play 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.”
He also said, “They (India and Pakistan) 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.”
This is unprecedented considering the fact that India has always resisted efforts of a third-party intervention when it came to settling outstanding bilateral issues between India and Pakistan.
Signs of thaw in ties
On 25 February, which marked the second anniversary of the Balakot airstrikes, the first indications of a potential thaw were seen when both sides issued a joint statement agreeing to strictly observe ceasefire along the Line of Control.
Earlier, in an interview with ThePrint, former RAW chief A.S. Dulat, who was also an adviser on Kashmir under former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said, “UAE is very active now. He (Crown Prince) wants to take a lead in the Arab world. It is possible that the Crown Prince had something to do with this with a little bit of nudging. Of course, nobody can push either side as both India and Pakistan are strong, independent countries.”
Dulat added, “Neither side will be open to third-party intervention. Both are strong and independent countries and I don’t think anybody can push us. But there can be suggestions, there can be a little nudge here and there and if it’s coming from the UAE, I think both sides have a good relationship with the UAE and the UAE is wanting to play a bigger role in the Arab world to overtake Saudi Arabia.”