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Welcome third-party mediation with India: Pak foreign minister in UAE

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday welcomed “third-party mediation” to ease Indo-Pak tensions but denied an India-specific agenda behind his ongoing visit to the UAE.

“I am here for a bilateral visit and not an India-specific agenda. My agenda is UAE-Pakistan and not India-Pakistan,” Qureshi, who is here on a three-day visit, told the local Khaleej Times newspaper on Sunday.

“I don’t think a meeting is set out with the Indian foreign minister,” he said.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is visiting the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday with a focus on bilateral economic cooperation and community welfare.

Interestingly, Jaishankar’s visit coincides with the ongoing trip of his Pakistani counterpart to the Gulf emirate amid media reports that the UAE has been holding back-channel talks to restart dialogue between the two neighbours.

Qureshi said friends generally, including the UAE, have always said that the two countries should sit and resolve issues through dialogue. “India has always been hesitant of a third-party mediation; we welcomed it and were never shy of it,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

There has been speculation about the possibilities of the two foreign ministers meeting in the UAE.

The visits of the two leaders to Abu Dhabi comes days after the Emirati ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba said that the UAE played a role in bringing down the tension between India and Pakistan and getting their bilateral ties back to a “healthy functional relationship”.

“They might not sort of becoming 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,” al-Otaiba said during a virtual discussion with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution on Wednesday.

Asked about the possibility of a UAE-brokered dialogue, Qureshi said Pakistan welcomes third-party facilitation but, no matter what friends say, the initiative has to be indigenous.

“The political will has to be demonstrated by the leadership of India and Pakistan. They can be suggestive and facilitators but, ultimately, it is the people of South Asia who have to decide what kind of future they visualise for posterity,” he said.

Numerous reports in recent weeks have suggested that the UAE has been brokering a round of negotiations between India and Pakistan.

India and Pakistan in a surprise announcement said on February 25 that they have agreed to strictly observe all agreements on a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and other sectors.

Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after a terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by terror groups based in the neighbouring country.

Subsequent attacks, including one on the Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.

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