With National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval leaving for Paris late Monday night and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar in Male, New Delhi is likely to take a “political call” on the proposed Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan “in the next 48 hours”, government sources said. There is a possibility of the talks being postponed by “a few days or, at most, a few weeks”, a source added.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the formation of a high-profile joint investigation team (JIT) to get more information about the Pathankot airbase attackers, a media report said Monday.
Pakistani authorities also carried out raids in in Gujranwala, Jhelum and Bahawalpur districts, during which an unspecified number of people were arrested, intelligence officials said. The raids, sources said, were seen as “positive signs” by the Indian establishment.
However, reports in the Pakistani media claiming that phone numbers used by Pakistani handlers were “unregistered” were met with disbelief in New Delhi. “According to our information, Pakistan’s telecom rules do not allow phone numbers to be activated till biometrics are captured. How is it possible that the numbers are unregistered?” said a source.
Government sources said the “assessment” of the action being taken by Pakistan will be done by the security establishment — under NSA’s watch — before a call is taken on whether or not Jaishankar travels to Islamabad on January 15.
“The leads were shared by the NSA and the security agencies are best equipped to assess the progress made by the Pakistan’s establishment in their investigations. So, by Wednesday, a call will be taken on the Foreign Secretary-level talks,” said a source.
Doval is going to France as part of preparations ahead of French President Francois Hollande’s visit to India for the Republic Day celebrations. Jaishankar went to Maldives on Monday and will be headed to Colombo on Tuesday, before returning to Delhi on Wednesday.
“It is likely that there will be a conference call between top officials and the political leadership on Tuesday or Wednesday to decide on the future course of action,” an official tasked with preparatory work for the Foreign Secretary-level talks told The Indian Express.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, meanwhile, met Home Minister Rajnath Singh Monday afternoon — a meeting described by officials as “routine”.
In Islamabad, the decision to form the JIT, comprising officials from the Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence, was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Sharif recently, Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune said.
Sharif “is taking an active role in getting to the bottom of the Pathankot incident”, a source from the Prime Minister’s House was quoted as saying by the paper.
“He also discussed the issue with Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif and took him on board about the decision to form a JIT,” the source added.
“This investigation will be a major test of the prime minister to move Pakistan-India relationship forward and to break the cycle of off-again on-again talks between the two neighbours,” the source said.