Describing Pakistan’s crackdown against Jaish-e-Muhammad members linked to the Pathankot attack as an “important and positive first step”, India and Pakistan agreed Thursday to reschedule Foreign Secretary-level talks, planned for January 15, and hold them in the “very near future”.
In a first, India also agreed to host Pakistan’s Special Investigation Team (SIT), which has been formed by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Indian intelligence agencies will cooperate with their Pakistan counterparts. This is very different from the post-26/11 investigations when India did not agree to the idea of having Pakistani investigators in Mumbai.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar spoke to Pakistan counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary Thursday and they decided to defer the talks with “mutual consent”, Vikas Swarup, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said. The decision was taken after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his return from Paris.
Asked why have the talks been rescheduled if India was welcoming the Pakistani action against Jaish, Swarup said the Foreign Secretaries felt that more time was required before they meet “away from the shadow” of the investigations into the Pathankot terror strike.
We have no information regarding arrest of Masood Azhar: MEA pic.twitter.com/KhN7Adk2DE
— ANI (@ANI_news) January 14, 2016
Comprehensive Strategic Dialogue tabhi suspend hota agr shuru hua hota: Vikas Swaroop MEA to q if dialogue suspended pic.twitter.com/BnXONf8saC
— ANI (@ANI_news) January 14, 2016
On India’s bottomline for the Foreign Secretaries to meet — discuss the modalities of resumption of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue process — Swarup said, “We are looking for credible and comprehensive action to bring all the perpetrators of the Pathankot terror attack to justice.”
He refused, however, to link the arrest or detention of Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar to the Foreign Secretary-level talks.
Sources told The Indian Express that reports of arrest or detention of Masood Azhar was just a “ruse”. New Delhi, sources said, wants Pakistan to show them copies of FIRs and sections of the Pakistan law under which Azhar has been arrested or taken into custody.
“We will go by what objective evidence we see on the ground, not empty statements. So far, what Pakistan has done, we welcome,” Swarup said.
In Islamabad, Pakistan also declined to confirm the arrest or detention of Azhar. “I am not aware of such arrests,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilluah said.
Swarup said the statement issued by the Pakistan government Wednesday on the investigations into the Pathankot attack conveyed that “considerable progress” had been made in the probe against terrorist elements linked to the strike.
“The action taken against JeM is an important and positive first step. We also note that the government of Pakistan is considering to send a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the Pathankot terror attack. We look forward to the visit of the Pakistani SIT and our investigative agencies will extend all necessary cooperation to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice,” Swarup said.
He rejected reports of the NSAs of the two countries meeting in Paris. He said the NSAs were in regular touch.
Swarup said the dialogue process, which started with the NSAs meeting in Bangkok and continued with the External Affairs Minister’s visit to Islamabad and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brief visit to Lahore, was in “danger” because of the terrorist attack in Pathankot.
The spokesperson said that the action by Pakistan on the Pathankot terror strike was “in line” with their own commitment to get rid of terrorism.
Asked about US President Barack Obama’s State of The Union address in which he said Pakistan was a terror haven, Swarup refused comment.