Top officials from Indian spy agency RAW and Pakistan’s ISI held a secret meeting in Dubai, UAE, earlier this year to ease tensions over the Kashmir issue, according to reports.
It is believed this dialogue had paved the way for the February 25 agreement between Indian and Pakistani militaries to maintain a ceasefire along the Line of Control, the de facto border that divides the two countries in the Kashmir region.
News agency Reuters reported that peace talks were facilitated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has friendly ties with both New Delhi and Islamabad.
The “secret” meeting reportedly took place in Dubai in January in the presence of only the top officials from India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Kashmir has been a bone of contention between the two South Asian neighbors. The two countries had fought three major wars since their independence. In addition to that, regular cross-border exchange of fire between their militaries and terrorist attacks in the India-administered Kashmir disturbed the peace and stability in the Valley.
The tensions between India and Pakistan peaked when Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed triggered a suicide attack on a vehicle carrying India’s CRPF troops in Jammu Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14, 2019. As many as 40 security personnel lost their lives to the ghastly terror attack.
To avenge the death of the security personnel, on February 26, Indian Air Force jets dropped bombs in Pakistan’s Balakot to dismantle terror launchpads, pushing the two nuclear-armed neighbors to the brink of a full-scale conflict.
The next day, Pakistan Air Force jets flew into Indian airspace and dropped bombs near an Indian military installation in Jammu and Kashmir.
The PAF fighters were chased away by the IAF following a dogfight, during which Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s MIG-21 Bison was shot down and he was captured by the Pakistani military. Varthaman was released later though.
India-Pakistan relations reached a new low after New Delhi scrapped Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The state was also bifurcated into two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh — thereby bringing them under the federal government’s control.
Since then, Pakistan has upped the ante, alleging violations of human rights and freedom and expression in the Kashmir Valley, among others.
Why UAE Brokered Peace Talks
The India-UAE relations have significantly improved in the last few years. The Gulf nation also maintains close ties with Pakistan, but it has not backed Pakistan whenever the latter raised the Kashmir issue.
According to The Diplomat, UAE does not want Islamabad to sway away from traditional Sunni power centers and towards Iran, Malaysia and Turkey. Pakistan too, cannot afford economic isolation from the UAE due to its heavy dependence on their grants, foreign remittances, and trade.
Both India and Pakistan have their fair share of reasons to settle the ongoing dispute. While India is engaged in a border dispute with China, it wants to avoid another military conflict on the Pakistan front.
On the other hand, Islamabad is grappling with the issue of sinking economy and terrorism, which makes it difficult to sustain the hostilities against India. In the absence of any concrete plan to resolve the Kashmir issue, these talks in a third country can pave the way for long-term conflict resolution.