Jaishankar arrives in Abu Dhabi; meets UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah

Abu Dhabi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who arrived here on Sunday, met his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the two leaders are expected to discuss bilateral economic cooperation and issues of mutual and regional interest.

"Delighted to meet FM @ABZayed. Look forward to our discussions," Jaishankar tweeted.

Interestingly, Jaishankar's visit coincides with the ongoing trip of his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi to the United Arab Emirates amid media reports that the Gulf emirate has been holding back channel talks to restart dialogue between the two neighbours.

Jaishankar earlier paid a two-day visit to the UAE from November 25 to 26 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. During his visit, he had met his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and held discussions on the entire range of bilateral issues.

"At the invitation of his counterpart, EAM @DrSJaishankar will be visiting Abu Dhabi on 18th April 2021. His discussions will focus on economic cooperation and community welfare," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted on Saturday.

Jaishankar's current visit 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 become 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.

Qureshi is in the UAE on a three-day visit during which he will hold discussions with the country's leadership on all areas of bilateral cooperation including collaboration in trade and investment.

In Islamabad, Pakistan's Foreign Office said that Qureshi will meet his counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other UAE dignitaries.

The visits of the two leaders are leading speculation as UAE's foreign minister will hold talks with his counterparts from India and Pakistan.

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

When asked about the media reports of backchannel talks between India and Pakistan, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi did not give a direct reply.

"If you talk about channels of communication on this issue, let me just recall that our respective high commissions exist and are functioning. So that is a very effective channel of communication," Bagchi said on April 9.

India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. India has said the onus is on Pakistan to create an environment free of terror and hostility.

On the same day, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman stopped short of categorically denying its involvement in some kind of backchannel talks with India.

Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry at the weekly press briefing on April 9 was asked by several journalists about reported backchannel talks with India.

Instead of rejecting it outrightly he said: "States have their ways and means to communicate which remain available even during wars. Therefore, whether any talks are taking place between India and Pakistan is not important."

He added that the real issue was what should be discussed between the two countries and how the dialogue could be made meaningful and result-oriented dialogue.

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 Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.

The relationship dipped further after India's war planes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26, 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed.

The relations deteriorated after India announced withdrawing special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories in August, 2019.

Last month, Pakistan's powerful Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that it was time for India and Pakistan to "bury the past and move forward" as he asserted that the peace between the two neighbours would help to "unlock" the potential of South and Central Asia.

The powerful army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 72 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.

Gen Bajwa's remarks came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan made a similar statement.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal

www.freepressjournal.in