ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India have mutually agreed to defer their foreign secretaries’ meeting planned for Friday as the focus remained on Pakistan’s action against alleged perpetrators of the Pathankot attack.
“Pakistan and India have agreed to reschedule foreign secretary level talks,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a brief statement after the Indian External Affairs Ministry made a similar announcement in New Delhi.
Foreign secretaries of the two countries were to meet on Friday to decide on the timetable and modalities of resumed dialogue that has been named as ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’.
No new dates have been given, except for an assertion by both sides that the meeting would be held “in very near future”.
The decision on postponing the meeting was taken during a telephonic conversation between Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar.
New Delhi welcomes arrests made in connection with airbase siege
According to a source, a meeting could be possible in a week to fortnight’s time depending on the progress on Pathankot investigation. A meeting of national security advisers was also being speculated.
During this period India would like to evaluate the actions that Pakistan has taken against alleged attackers.
Pakistan announced on Wednesday that it had initiated a crackdown on Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) — the group India suspects to be behind the airbase attack — to salvage the resumed peace dialogue. There were reports about JeM chief Masood Azhar being detained, but both Indian and Pakistani foreign ministries expressed ignorance about Azhar having been taken into custody.
“I am not aware of the arrest,” Pakistani FO spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said at the weekly media briefing.
Pakistani announcement about the action against JeM and formation of an investigation team was welcomed by India as “important and positive first step”.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said: “We look forward to the visit of the Pakistani special investigation team and our investigation agencies will extend all necessary cooperation to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice.”
Mr Swarup said India wanted Pakistani probe to be “credible and comprehensive and (one that) brings to book all the perpetrators of the Pathankot terror attack”.
Agencies add: Mr Swarup said that talks would take place in the “very near future”.
“The foreign secretary spoke to his Pakistani counterpart today and will set a date for the talks in the near future,” he added.
Asked in whose court the ball was now, he replied in Hindi, “when the husband and wife are willing, who is the priest to interfere”, indicating the talks would go ahead.
Mr Swarup welcomed the arrests and said India would work with a team of investigators Pakistan is sending to Pathankot, near the border between the two countries.
“We welcome the statement issued by the government of Pakistan yesterday on the investigations into the Pathankot terrorist attack,” he said.
“The statement conveys that considerable progress has been made in the investigations being carried out against terrorist elements linked to the Pathankot incident.
“The action against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (group) is an important and positive first step,” he said.
Mr Swarup denied speculation that the talks would collapse because of the attack.
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2016