Drawing out the suspense over the future of India-Pakistan engagement, the government on Wednesday deferred a decision on whether Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar would travel to Islamabad for talks on Friday, as had been informally agreed last month.
A decision had been expected after an announcement in Pakistan that security forces carried out a crackdown on the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), accused of the Pathankot airbase attack, and that its founder Masood Azhar had been detained for questioning.
However government sources said, “No information has been received from Pakistan on the arrests”, indicating that a decision would be taken on Foreign Secretary talks only after Pakistan conveyed the nature of action it has taken to the government.
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who has been in Paris since Tuesday, is expected back in Delhi on Thursday, when a decision may possibly be taken.
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On Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting in Islamabad of the entire top security apparatus of Pakistan and the State of Punjab in particular.
The meeting was attended by Army Chief Raheel Sharif, the ISI chief, the Corps Commander Lahore as well as several senior ministers and advisers, besides the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
“Based on the initial investigations in Pakistan, several officials belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammad have been apprehended,” a statement from Mr. Sharif’s office said.
It added that the government would send a Special Investigative Team to India to gather “additional evidence.”
According to officials in Islamabad, at least four offices of the JeM were raided and sealed, while more arrests were expected.
Finally, Mr. Sharif constituted a team to “probe the allegations of alleged involvement of certain individuals in the Pathankot attack.”
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The six-member team included the Punjab police counter-terror chief, Rai Tahir, as well as the Director IB in Lahore, and officials of the Federal Investigation Agency, ISI, and Military Intelligence.
Within a few hours, Pakistani police told local media that they had detained JeM founder Masood Azhar, the man India believes masterminded the attack, his operations chief and brother Rauf Azhar and other associates for questioning.
However, the information was not confirmed by the government.
“More investigations are under way….Pakistan would remain engaged with India on this issue,” the PMO statement said.
Confirmation awaited However Indian officials said they felt the news of Azhar’s arrest could have been a “deliberate plant” and had not been confirmed through official channels.