India, Pakistan agree to put off Foreign Secretary talks

New Delhi insists on more action over Pathankot terror attack.

January 15, 2016 02:01 am | Updated November 17, 2021 03:14 am IST - NEW DELHI:

After days of suspense, India and Pakistan agreed on Thursday to put off talks between the Foreign Secretaries that were due to be held on Friday in Islamabad.

“Foreign Secretary [S. Jaishankar] spoke to his Pakistani counterpart today [Thursday]. They agreed to reschedule their talks in the very near future,” the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told the media, refusing to comment on when the next date for talks would be.

In Islamabad, the Foreign Affairs spokesperson Qazi Khalillulah said that “Pakistan and India are in touch to firm up a date for the Foreign Secretary level talks.”

Officials called the postponement of talks to a later date a matter of “mutual convenience”, but the announcement at the last hour indicated that India had held out for more action from Pakistan against the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack before deciding to put off the talks that had been announced by Pakistan for January 15.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office had claimed a major crackdown on >the Jaish-e-Mohammad , the group accused of carrying out the airbase attack in which 7 Indian soldiers were killed. According to the Pakistan PMO statement, JeM operatives had been “apprehended”, and offices sealed.

However, despite media reports quoting several police and intelligence officials on the “protective detention” and questioning of >JeM founder Masood Azhar , there was no confirmation from the Pakistani government of this, the MEA said.

On Monday, >National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had said there would be no talks with Pakistan without action on the ground, and officials said the postponement of talks was consistent with that.

“Why were these unconfirmed reports even put out, unless it was to fool [the Indian government] into announcing talks?” a senior official told The Hindu .

Meanwhile, the MEA said India had noted the Pakistan government’s discussion >on sending a Special Investigation Team comprising a six-man investigation committee including ISI and Military intelligence officials.

“We look forward to the visit of the Pakistani SIT, and our investigative agencies will extend all necessary cooperation to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice,” the spokesperson told reporters.

Officials wouldn’t comment on whether the SIT would arrive in India before the next date is set for the Foreign Secretary talks.

Not cancelling talks a positive sign: experts

As the Foreign Secretary talks between India and Pakistan stand postponed, the foreign ministries in Delhi and Islamabad denied any meeting between the National Security Advisers had taken place in Dubai on Thursday, as had been widely speculated.

The decision to put off the talks effectively puts into limbo the newly restarted dialogue process that had been kicked off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif >meeting in Paris on November 30 . Even so, experts on both sides said the fact that they had not been cancelled should be seen as a positive sign.

“Postponement of Foreign Secretary-level talks is not going to impact anything because the postponement is not indefinite and both sides have agreed to continue with the dialogue,” said former Foreign Minister Natwar Singh.

Speaking to The Hindu from Islamabad, former diplomat Ashraf Jehangir Qazi said, “It is noteworthy that both sides stayed in touch with each other after the Pathankot attack and sustained mutual trust which shows that the talks are on track and the terrorists did not succeed. Obviously, sometime is needed to recover from the after effects of the attack and the postponement will help.”

The postponement decision had been expected on Wednesday night, when Mr. Modi convened a meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar. However officials said they decided to wait for the return of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. The Congress asked why the Prime Minister had been unable to take the decision himself. “Does this mean that PM Modi had given all responsibility to the National Security Adviser,” asked Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh.

On the terror trail

Several questions remain unanswered as Pakistani prepares to send a team to probe the Pathankot terror attack

1 Has Pakistan registered any case in the Pathankot attack yet?
2 What is the truth on reports of Masood Azhar's detention?
3 Can the Pakistani team be given access to the scene of the crime in the IAF base?
4 What evidence can be shared with the visiting team, given that maps and troop locations are classified informations?
5 Will the probe be registered to sharing of information only?

Also read:>Handlers were close to the border: NIA

>Give Pakistan more time, no reason to distrust assurances: Rajnath

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