WASHINGTON: Adviser for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has said that a Pakistani team will visit India “in the next few days” to investigate the Jan 2 terrorist attack on an airbase in Pathankot.

An official transcript released on Tuesday also quoted him as saying that the foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries could be rescheduled soon after the visit.

After a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, Mr Aziz said it was unfortunate that the Pathankot attack disrupted the resumption of secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan.

He pointed out that since the attack, Pakistan had taken a number of “important steps” for resumption of these talks.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) immediately after the attack and assured him of Pakistan’s support in the investigation. National security advisers are maintaining frequent contacts,” he said.

“A case has been registered and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is likely to visit India in the next few days. We, therefore, hope that the foreign secretary-level talks will be scheduled very soon,” Mr Aziz said during the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue he co-chaired with Secretary Kerry.

Mr Aziz said that the government’s decision to reach out to India after the Pathankot attack was an important part of a strategy to improve ties with all neighbouring states.

“We believe that the resolution of all outstanding issues — including the Kashmir dispute — is possible through resumption of full-scale and uninterrupted dialogue with India,” said the adviser while noting that Pakistan also had “proposed a mechanism to address our respective concerns on terrorism”.

Soon after the Pathankot attack, Pakistan set up a six-member Special Investiga­tion Team to follow up on the leads India had provided.

On Saturday, a court in Gujranwala remanded six suspects, arrested for their alleged involvement in the attack, in police custody for further investigation.

Mr Aziz said the Indian participation in the Heart of Asia Conference in Islamabad last December and the announcement to start the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue were positive developments that augured well for peace and stability in South Asia.

“Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Islamabad was welcomed by most in Pakistan. Here, I would like to express our gratitude to you and President (Barack) Obama for your consistent support to the revival of Pakistan-India dialogue,” Mr Aziz said in his opening remarks.

Mr Aziz said that the Pakistani government was committed to acting against all terrorist groups without any distinction.

“Our strategy to eliminate terrorist networks and defeat their extremist ideology is all-encompassing. We are focusing on three fronts that include both kinetic and non-kinetic actions,” he said.

Mr Aziz also highlighted Pakistan’s “sincere commitment” to transforming its relationship with Afghanistan, which, he said, reflected in its efforts to help start the reconciliation process

He noted that there was a growing consensus that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process was “the best way to achieve lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan”.

Mr Aziz said that the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which counts the United States, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan as members, had also reached a “unanimous agreement” on a roadmap to take the reconciliation process forward.

“It is our expectation that countries in the region, traditionally opposed to the reconciliation process, will shun their objections and support the efforts of the QCG to help the Afghan government bring peace and stability to their country,” he said.

This was an indirect reference to India, which publicly voiced concerns about the reconciliation process because it excludes New Delhi.

“With so much capital expended on this process, we cannot afford another setback,” said the top diplomat, while referring to the derailment of the reconciliation process after the first meeting in Murree in July.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2016



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