(This was originally posted in Arab News by Aamir Latif)
Saudi Arabia has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan in an attempt to reduce long-running tensions between the two nuclear neighbors. In an interview with state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) aired Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud said his country “can play a role in reducing tensions between Pakistan and India.”
The offer came amid United Arab Emirates-brokered “backdoor” diplomacy which in February led to an understanding between the two militaries to honor a 2003 cease-fire agreement at the disputed Kashmir border.
Although, the two countries have denied the occurrence of any back-channel diplomacy, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said last week in an interview with local broadcaster Samaa News that there are contacts between the two militaries to keep each other informed on developing situations, which is a “routine.”
In April, Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the US, confirmed that Abu Dhabi is mediating between New Delhi and Islamabad to help them reach a “healthy and functional” relationship. Addressing a virtual session with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Otaiba said his country had a role behind the recent cease-fire at the Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, which could get relations back to a “healthy level.”
Praising the cease-fire understanding, the Saudi foreign minister termed it an “excellent step in the right direction.” Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high after the Indian government revoked Article 370 and other related provisions from its Constitution, stripping the country’s only Muslim-majority state of its autonomy in August 2019. It was also split into two federally administered territories.