DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates’ envoy to Washington confirmed the Gulf state is mediating between India and Pakistan to help the nuclear-armed rivals reach a “healthy and functional” relationship.

Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tension over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said in a virtual discussion with Stanford University’s Hoover Institu­tion on Wednesday that the UAE played 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”.

“They 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,” he said.

Ties between India and Pakistan have been frozen since a suicide bombing of a military convoy in India-held Kashmir (IHK) in 2019. New Delhi alleged Pakistan-based militants carried out the attack and sent warplanes to Pakistan.

Intelligence officers from both sides held talks in Dubai in January

Later that year, India’s prime minister withdrew IHK’s autonomy in order to tighten his grip over the disputed territory, provoking outrage in Pakistan and the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade.

Otaiba also said that Pakistan should play a helpful role in Afghanistan, where the United States plans to start withdrawing US troops this year to end America’s longest war.

The Emirati official voiced concern that an abrupt US withdrawal would constitute “reverse progress” by serving the interests of “the more illiberal forces” in Afghanistan.

“The question is if the three parties (the US, Taliban and Afghan government) can reach an agreement that they can all live with,” Otaiba said.

“It’s hard for us to see a way to stabilise Afghanistan without Pakistan playing a helpful role,” he added.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2021

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