A senior United Arab Emirates diplomat has said that the country was mediating between India and Pakistan to help them reach a “healthy and functional” relationship, The Indian Express reported on Friday

“We try to be helpful, where we have influence with two different countries...so India-Pakistan was the most recent one,” Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s envoy to the United States, said during an interaction on Wednesday.

Speaking to former US National Security Advisor HR McMaster, Al Otaiba cited media reports which he said “highlighted the role the UAE played in bringing the Kashmir escalation down and sort of created a ceasefire”.

Al Otaiba’s comments came on the same day as Reuters reported that top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held “secret talks” in Dubai in January to ease military tension regarding Kashmir. The report, quoting unnamed sources, said that officials from India’s Research and Analysis Wing and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence travelled to Dubai for a meeting facilitated by the United Arab Emirates government. However, India’s foreign ministry and Pakistan’s ISI have not confirmed or denied that such a meeting took place.

On being asked if the UAE was trying to help the two countries have a better relationship, Al Otaiba replied in the affirmative. He said that while India and Pakistan might not become “best friends”, the Gulf state wanted the bilateral relationship between the two neighbours to be one where they speak to each other.

“We don’t think they are going to become...‘Most Favoured Nations’ with each other, but I think it is important for them to have a healthy, functional relationship, which is exactly our objective,” Al Otaiba said, according to The Indian Express.

India-Pakistan relations

Apart from the initiative that UAE claims to have taken, a number of developments over the past few months have indicated that the ties between India and Pakistan have improved. Both the countries released a rare joint statement in March, announcing a ceasefire along the Line of Control. The declaration reaffirms the commitment of both the countries made during the 2003 ceasefire agreement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had written to his counterpart Imran Khan on the occasion of National Day of Pakistan on March 23, saying that India desires “cordial relations with the people of Pakistan”. In his response dated March 29, Khan reciprocated the Indian prime minister’s sentiments.

In March, a Pakistani delegation had arrived in India for a meeting of the permanent Indus commission. This was the first such dialogue in more than two-and-a-half years.

During Pakistan Day celebration in Delhi on March 23, Aftab Hasan Khan, Charges D’Affaires of the Pakistan High Commission had said that that the two countries should resolve all bilateral problems, especially that of Jammu and Kashmir through dialogue. Last month, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had also said that it was time “to bury the past and move forward”.

However, the positive developments took a hit in April after Pakistan deferred the decision to import cotton and sugar from India just a day after the country’s top decision-making body on commerce lifted a ban to facilitate the trade. Pakistan had then said that the bilateral relations could not be normalised unless India revokes the abrogation of Article 370, which in August 2019 abolished the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.