A day after India linked the Pakistan government to the January 2 terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase, the country’s top foreign policy bureaucrat said action against the attackers would take priority over bilateral talks.
“In the aftermath of a terror attack, if you ask me what do you give priority to, a terrorist attack or a diplomatic dialogue, I think the answer should be obvious,” said Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar.
He was speaking at a conference co-sponsored by India’s Ministry of External Affair and the Observer Research Foundation called ‘Raisina Dialogue’ in New Delhi.
Jaishankar’s comments were a departure from a statement of India’s envoy in Islamabad two weeks ago in which he had delinked revival of the stalled talks from progress in Pathankot investigations.
India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told parliament on Tuesday that the Pakistani non-state actors who allegedly carried out the airbase assault had state support.
India has blamed the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group for the attack. And talks between the foreign secretaries scheduled for mid-January were deferred in the wake of the attack.
“Most people in this country [India] want to treat Pakistan as a normal neighbour. So we would like to do with Pakistan what we do with everybody else. But the fact is that there are obstacles and we know what the obstacles are,” Jaishankar added, emphasising on the need to remove the obstacles.
Despite tensions, Jaishankar said, both countries were continuing ‘parallel processes’ with the respective national security advisers and to a certain extent between him and his Pakistani counterpart remain in touch with each other.
“It takes two hands to clap,” he said as he underlined the need for connectivity between the two hostile neighbours.
Asked about his overview of India-Pakistan ties, Jaishankar said New Delhi wanted a ‘much more modern relationship’ with Islamabad but it would require a change in attitude towards a number of issues with terrorism being the central one.
However, he insisted India was trying to make efforts to improve ties with Pakistan. “I cannot think of any prime minister of India who did not strive for better relations with Pakistan. There may be differences in nuances, pace and packaging,” he added.
Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries could now meet on March 14-15 in the Nepal capital of Kathmandu where officials are expected to gather to discuss the upcoming Saarc conference.
India seeks details of four Jaish-linked men
India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) has written to Pakistani authorities seeking details of four JeM-linked men, according to the Times of India.
The NIA sent letters through a special court asking about the phone numbers dialled by the Pathankot attackers and the people to whom these numbers belong to. They have also sought details and pictures of Khayam Baber’s sons, one of whom was involved in the Pathankot assault.
Eight ex-servicemen arrested
An Indian state minister told the Rajya Sabha, upper house of parliament, on Wednesday that eight former servicemen had been arrested by the police for allegedly spying for Pakistan. “These ex-servicemen have been contacted by PIOs on the pretext of providing jobs, scholarship, monetary consideration,” Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2016.