Unlike Pakistan, India has been consistently rejecting any third-party mediation over the Kashmir dispute. However, it appears that the Indian government has softened its stand now.
Although New Delhi has not officially acknowledged this yet, the UAE has confirmed that it is mediating between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to iron out their differences.
Quoting credible reports, The EurAsian Times reported last week that top officials from Indian spy agency RAW and Pakistan’s ISI held a secret meeting in Dubai in January this year to ease military tensions in Kashmir.
The relations between the two countries had reached rock-bottom after New Delhi revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in August 2019 stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories.
Pakistan then slammed what it called India’s “unilateral decision” and accused it of human rights violations due to a large deployment of security personnel in the Valley.
Prior to this, in February 2019, 40 Indian security personnel were killed in a suicide attack by the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. Two weeks later, Indian Air Force fighter jets dropped bombs in Balakot inside the Pakistani territory, triggering fears of a full-scale military conflict between the two countries.
Pakistan retaliated by sending a formation of fighter jets, resulting in an aerial skirmish during which an Indian fighter jet was shot down and its pilot was captured by the Pakistani military. The pilot was, however, released within 60 hours of capture.
UAE Confirms India-Pakistan Mediation
Confirming the UAE’s mediation, the Gulf nation’s envoy to the US has said that Abu Dhabi 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”, according to Al Jazeera.
Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba also stated that his country is trying to bring about a “healthy and functional” relationship between India and Pakistan. And this back-channel diplomacy did yield some results as militaries of the two South Asian neighbors agreed to maintain a ceasefire along their shared border in Jammu and Kashmir from the midnight of February 24.
My discussions with HH Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan were wide ranging. We shaped an ambitious roadmap to further strengthen India-UAE ties. pic.twitter.com/EevWiTUHLA
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 25, 2017
Nitin J Ticku, a strategic analyst told the EurAsian Times that he was amazed to learn about the UAE’s mediation between India and Pakistan as New Delhi has historically never agreed to third-party mediation offers and kept a strong stance on following bilateral means.
Thus the question arises as to what prompted India to change its stated position on Kashmir, which has been a bone of contention between the two countries since their independence and had caused two of the three major wars — 1947 and 1965, and a limited war in 1999.
India-Pakistan: A Tricky Relationship
It is not that India had always opposed any third-party intervention. When Pakistani forces had entered Kashmir during the Indo-Pak war of 1947-48, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sought the UN’s help despite his colleague Vallabhbhai Patel’s protests.
The United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was set up to address this issue. But India felt that the Commission’s proposals favored Pakistan and rejected them.
The question of mediator bias probably made India hesitant to go further on the issue. At that time, India must have felt that the US-dominated UN favored Pakistan due to India’s close ties with the erstwhile Soviet Union.
Then, the 1966 Tashkent Agreement was mediated by the Soviet Union that led to the end of the 1965 India-Pakistan war. As the more powerful state, India had the upper hand and was able to convince Pakistan to agree to bilateralism in the case of Kashmir through the 1972 Simla Agreement.
Since then, many world leaders including then South African President Nelson Mandela, former UN Chief António Guterres, former US President Donald Trump, and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg came forward to play the mediator role, only to be told ‘no’ by India.
The only exception was during the 1999 Kargil War when Washington had stepped in to prevent it from turning into a nuclear conflict and pushed for a resolution.
Former US President Trump was the latest to give it a shot. In 2019, Trump who had offered to mediate at least thrice in his tenure said, he would “do whatever he can, because, they are at very serious odds right now and hopefully that will get better”.
Explaining the reasons behind New Delhi’s reluctance, Suhasini Haider, the diplomatic editor of The Hindu, said that apart from the historical suspicion that India has harbored since the 1950s, New Delhi “sees itself as a regional leader, and does not require any assistance in sorting out its issues with other regional countries.”
“In addition, the widespread belief is that mediation favors the weaker party by leveling the playing field, and with its stronger conventional and non-conventional military prowess, India has seen no significant gain from bringing a third party into its 70-year-old conflict with Pakistan,” she wrote.