A DAY after India and Pakistan agreed to reschedule the Foreign Secretary-level talks and hold them in the “very near future”, sources told The Indian Express that the talks are likely to take place in January itself.
“There is no point in delaying the talks indefinitely as that will be counter-productive,” said a source on Friday.
That was the understanding reached between Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary when they spoke on Thursday afternoon. Chaudhary, sources said, was “not surprised” when Jaishankar suggested that the meeting be delayed, and he agreed to the change.
Pakistan government sources said Chaudhary is busy with the Quadrilateral Coordination Group meeting on Afghanistan, which includes China and the US, till January 18. “A date after January 20 will be suitable,” said a source in Islamabad.
The telephone conversation between Jaishankar and Chaudhary took place shortly after National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval returned from Paris at about 11 am on Thursday and briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his “assessment” of the action taken by the Pakistan government. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Jaishankar joined the meeting, where they discussed the options ahead.
“Since Doval and Pakistan’s NSA Nasser Khan Janjua were in touch over the last two weeks, he had a clear idea of the action being taken on the ground,” said the source.
“PM’s message to Doval and Jaishankar was clear: trust but verify. That was the underlying message under which they were working,” said sources.
Officials stressed that much will depend on the action taken by Pakistan in the coming days and whether Delhi will be convinced. Sources said that India has sought copies of FIRs and sections or laws under which the Jaish-e-Muhammad members have been apprehended.
“Pakistan has been asked to provide documentary and supporting evidence, including their photos in custody, to substantiate their statements and claims of action,” the source said. Without concrete cases against the individuals linked to the terrorist attack in Pathankot, it will be difficult for the government to send the Foreign Secretary to Islamabad.
Sources said the meeting between the Foreign Secretaries will not be linked to the visit of Pakistan’s Special Investigation Team. “It has been decided that the two things will be kept separate, and will not influence each other,” the sources said.
A section of the top brass feels that the Foreign Secretary-level talks should not be announced before it takes place. “The template being considered is the manner in which the NSAs met in Bangkok, without any prior information or announcement. That meeting was held without any pressure or external influences of public opinion, and is considered to be a successful model for future interaction,” said these sources.
Even if the two sides decide to announce the dates for the meeting, it will be at very short notice, maybe a couple of days, sources said. “The important thing is to have the meeting, which is the first step towards restarting the dialogue process. Unless that happens, the officials cannot start ministerial meetings and subject-specific discussions,” sources said.