A joint investigation team (JIT) formed by Pakistan to investigate the terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase will travel to India on March 27 in a bid to clear obstacles out of the way of foreign secretary-level talks between the two neighbours.
The announcement of the Pakistani team’s visit came from India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who met Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in Nepal on Thursday at the sidelines of a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meeting.
Punjab forms JIT to examine leads in Pathankot attack
Aziz primarily met Sushma to hand over an invitation on behalf of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for the Saarc summit being hosted by Pakistan later this year.
But the top diplomats used the meeting to discuss bilateral issues including the fate of comprehensive bilateral dialogue that got interrupted due to the Pathankot attack.
Thursday’s bilateral meeting was preceded by two informal exchanges between Swaraj and Aziz, the first during a dinner reception on Wednesday evening followed by a discussion over breakfast on Thursday.
This was the first meeting between the senior officials of the two countries since the January 2 attack on the Indian airbase that killed at least seven Indian security personnel.
New Delhi blamed militants from Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad for the attack and shared ‘leads’ with Islamabad. Acting on the information shared by India, Pakistan formed a JIT comprising officials from intelligence agencies as well as police to probe the attack.
An FIR was also registered recently against the unidentified attackers for their involvement in the attack.
Pathankot attack: Pakistan dismisses Indian allegations as unhelpful
Speaking to reporters after the meeting with the adviser, the Indian foreign minister said the issue of Pathankot investigation did come up for discussions.
“It’s not possible that I and the Pakistan foreign affairs adviser meet and the Pathankot issue is not taken up. Yes, it was discussed,” Swaraj told reporters in picturesque Pokhara. She said the Pakistani JIT will arrive in India on March 27 and start the investigation the next day.
This will be the first time that Pakistani intelligence and police officials are traveling to India for investigating terror attack.
While the uncertainty surrounding the JIT’s visit was now over, there is no announcement as yet regarding the meeting between the two foreign secretaries, who were to meet in January under comprehensive bilateral dialogue the two countries agreed to resume in December last year. It is believed that the meeting will take place after the JIT visit to India.
Terming his interaction with the Indian foreign minister as positive, Sartaj Aziz expressed satisfaction over the handling of Pathankot attack issues by both countries.
“The way the Pathankot issue has been handled and the cooperation between both sides, including the JIT’s proposed visit, will hopefully lead to a positive outcome,” he added.
The adviser also hoped that Prime Minister Nawaz and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi will meet in Washington at the sidelines of a Nuclear Security Summit being hosted by US President Barack Obama on March 31.
Pathankot attack: India says mere FIR won’t help Pakistan
“It is expected that both prime ministers will meet in Washington. But since Prime Minister Modi will be there just for one day, we can’t be sure of a structured dialogue,” he said.
Aziz said a meeting between the prime ministers would take forward the process of dialogue which was ‘interrupted’.
At his weekly news briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria confirmed to reporters that some Pakistani diplomats were not given permission by India to travel to Kolkata for the Pakistan-India cricket match in the T20 World Cup.
“We conveyed our disappointment to the Indian Deputy High Commissioner. I don’t know the exact status at this moment whether permission has been granted as yet. However, I think the issue will be resolved soon,” he said.
The spokesperson also strongly dismissed reports appearing in the Indian media claiming the presence of the Chinese army in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. “We totally reject baseless rumor-mongering about the presence of PLA (Peoples Liberation Army, China) troops in AJK. You may have seen the Chinese spokesperson’s statement also who has refuted these reports,” Nafees said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2016.
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