UAE played key role in bringing together india, pak for talks on Kashmir: Envoy

Yousef Al Otaiba brought up the issue by himself while replying to a question on whether the UAE can persuade Pakistan to play a more meaningful role in finding a settlement in Afghanistan
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Updated on Apr 15, 2021 11:27 PM IST
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ByRezaul H Laskar, New Delhi

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) played a role in bringing together India and Pakistan for talks aimed at calming tensions over the Kashmir issue and getting bilateral relations “back to a healthy level”, the UAE envoy to the US has said.

The remarks by ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, who also played a key role in facilitating the September 2020 Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, mark the first time a senior official of the UAE has publicly acknowledged the country’s role in efforts to normalise relations between India and Pakistan.

The comments, made during a virtual discussion between Al Otaiba and former US national security adviser HR McMaster that was organised by the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, came in the wake of media reports about the UAE facilitating talks between India and Pakistan.

Al Otaiba brought up the issue by himself while replying to a question on whether the UAE can persuade Pakistan to play a more meaningful role in finding a settlement in Afghanistan.

He referred to a news article that came out about three weeks ago which “highlighted the role the UAE played in bringing the Kashmir escalation down and sort of created a ceasefire, hopefully ultimately leading to restoring diplomats and getting the relationship back to a healthy level”.

Al Otaiba was apparently referring to a report by Bloomberg that spoke of the UAE’s role in facilitating secret negotiations between India and Pakistan that led to the militaries of the two countries recommitting themselves to the 2003 ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) from February 25.

Asked by McMaster whether it would be worthwhile for the UAE to pursue such a course given the Pakistan Army’s role in such matters and the low prospects for a better relations between India and Pakistan, Al Otaiba replied: “Absolutely, they might not sort of become best friends but at least we want to get it to a level where it’s functional, it’s operational, where they are speaking to each other, where there’s lines of communication and that’s our goal.

“You know, we don’t think they’re going to become, you know, most favoured nations with each other but I think it’s important for them to have a healthy functional relationship which is exactly our objective.”

Al Otaiba said the UAE tries to be helpful “where we have influence with two different countries”. He added, “So, India and Pakistan was the most recent one but you remember about three years ago, we also brought the Ethiopians and the Eritreans together for a peace deal which seems to not be doing too well right now.

“To the extent we can bring people together and create a win-win environment, whether it’s Ethiopia and Eritrea, Pakistan and India or UAE and Israel, we’ve been doing a lot of that I would say in the last two to three years.”

Reuters cited unnamed people to report on Thursday that top officers from India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tension over Kashmir. The meeting was facilitated by the UAE government, the report said.

There was no immediate response by Indian officials to the remarks by Al Otaiba or the Reuters report.

Al Otaiba described India as one of the “most important countries and relationships” for the UAE, “not just because there’s a little over two million Indians that live in the UAE but also because of the historical nature of the relationship where trade routes [and] cultural experiences between the two countries are incredibly strong”.

He added, “India is one of the most important countries for us for economic reasons, social reasons, cultural reasons. We’ve been trying to enhance our relationship with them for several years now and I think it’s really important to look at it completely holistically – not just trade and economics, but also...on climate and energy security.”

On Afghanistan, Al Otaiba said an abrupt withdrawal of US troops will serve “the interests of illiberal forces” and leave the Afghan government with a weaker hand. The biggest issue, he said, was whether the US, Afghan government and Taliban can “reach an agreement that they can all live with”. He also said it would be hard to stabilise Afghanistan “without Pakistan playing a helpful role”.

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