- Indian media highlights speculation on backchannel talks between Islamabad and New Delhi
- FM Qureshi is already in the UAE while S Jaishankar will arrive today
- Pakistan has said no meeting between FM Qureshi and Jaishankar has been scheduled
The Indian media has reported on speculation of backchannel talks taking place between India and Pakistan as foreign ministers of both nuclear-armed neighbours will be in the UAE today (Sunday).
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi arrived in the UAE on Saturday where he is expected to hold talks with his counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other UAE dignitaries.
India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will also arrive in the UAE today to hold talks with UAE government on various issues, including economic cooperation.
Jaishankar has been invited to Abu Dhabi by UAE 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,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted on Saturday.
As both foreign ministers of India and Pakistan will be in the same country for the next couple of days, the Indian media couldn’t help but highlight the speculation of backchannel talks between the two countries to ease tensions.
The speculation comes on the heels of the UAE’s envoy to Washington’s admission that the Gulf state is mediating to bring about a “healthy and functional” relationship between India and Pakistan.
“External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will visit Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the Ministry has said. The visit comes in the backdrop of reports that the United Arab Emirates has been holding back channel talks to restart dialogue between India and Pakistan,” reported a prominent Indian news website, The Hindu.
“However, attention will be on the fact that the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers will be in the same place at the same time,” wrote The Times of India.
Pakistan, however, has refused reports of any meeting taking place between Qureshi and Jaishankar. In response to queries on whether there was a bilateral meeting scheduled between the two, FO spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said:
“No such meeting is scheduled during Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s ongoing visit to the UAE.”
UAE helping India, Pakistan reach ‘healthy and functional’ relationship, says senior diplomat
However, the UAE diplomat had said a few days ago that the country was mediating between India and Pakistan to get the two countries talking again.
Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said in a virtual discussion with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution on Wednesday that the UAE had 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.
According to a report in Reuters, in January, top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in a renewed effort to calm military tension over Kashmir.
Ties between India and Pakistan have been frozen since a suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir in 2019 which India accused Pakistan of backing, and which Pakistan has always maintained was a home-grown attack perpetrated by disillusioned Kashmiri youth.
The incident eventually led to India sending warplanes to Pakistan for an unsuccessful mission that ended with the planes dropping their payload on a hillside in Balakot. Pakistan retaliated soon after, capturing an Indian pilot and downing two Indian jets in the process.
Later that year, India’s prime minister withdrew Indian-occupied Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten his grip over the territory, provoking outrage in Pakistan and the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade.