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“India-Pakistan détente reconciled by UAE” ; Ministry of External Affairs refused to comment

The Ministry of External Affairs refused to respond on the latest in a string of statements that the India-Pakistan détente, indicated by the ceasefire declaration by border commanders at the Line of Control (LoC) last month, was assisted by a back-channel dialogue between Indian and Pakistani administrators, and aided by a third country. The Ministry of External Affairs, which has refused to talk on the previous statements, kept its silence. Both UAE diplomatic experts and Pakistani executives also denied to confirm or deny the statements.

On Monday, international news agency Bloomberg announced that the two governments had started to work on a four-step “roadmap for peace” promoted by the United Arab Emirates government. The report stated that the surprise joint report declared by the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) on February 25, that allowed to complete cross LoC ceasefire violations (CFVs), was the consequence of communications “brokered by the UAE” months before and that the visit of UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed to Delhi on February 26 also reviewed development in the India-Pakistan “peace” means with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

Around two Indian national dailies and an international portal have earlier reported on the back-channel, purportedly directed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and speakers in Pakistan including Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa. Also, the Bloomberg report stated the ceasefire announcement was the first action consented to in the road, and that according to an unnamed executive, more would happen.
“The next step in the process, the official said, involves both sides reinstating envoys in New Delhi and Islamabad, who were pulled in 2019 after Pakistan protested India’s move to revoke seven decades of autonomy for the disputed Muslim-majority State of Jammu and Kashmir. Then comes the hard part: Talks on resuming trade and a lasting resolution on Kashmir, the subject of three wars since India and Pakistan became independent from Britain in 1947,” the Bloomberg report said.

Nevertheless, various improvements in the past month have shown to a broader peace means in play, not confined only to the LoC ceasefire, which has been continued since February 25. To start with, remarks from officials in the past week, especially from Pakistan PM Imran Khan and General Bajwa as well as Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla have been cut from the customary speech. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also wished PM Khan a speedy recovery from Covid-19 after he was diagnosed last week, sidestepping earlier enmity between the two leaders and India has provided Pakistani sporting teams to visit for the first time in three years.
Next week, both Foreign Ministers S. Jaishankar and Shah Mehmood Qureshi will visit the Heart of Asia conference in Dushanbe on March 30, which is being seen as an occasion for the meeting. And the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation- Regional Anti-Terror Structure (SCO-RATS) secretariat has stated that Indian troops would be part of counter-terror joint activities, due to be carried by the 8-nation grouping in Pakistan later this year, which would be a first. Meanwhile, an eight-member Pakistani committee directed by Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters Meher Ali Shah traveled to Delhi for Indus treaty talks on Tuesday, with the Indian team directed by Indian Commissioner Pradeep Saxena, to be endured after more than two years.

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The UAE FM proceeds to lead the talks, said the Bloomberg report, which indicated a recent telephone conversation Mr. Zayed had with PM Khan. While India has consistently and openly denied any chance of third-party intervention between India and Pakistan, there have been many proposals, including one by former U.S. President Donald Trump, to facilitate communications. In February 2019, after the Balakot strikes and Pakistani action at the LoC that witnessed an Indian pilot captured in Pakistan after his plane was shot down, Mr. Trump had said he had talked to both sides to ensure the pilot’s liberation. At the time, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan had also declared that he had telephoned Mr. Modi and Mr. Khan to de-escalate pressures and promote “peaceful dialogue” between the two.

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