The bilateral dialogue process between Islamabad and New Delhi seems to have ground to a halt, Pakistan’s high commissioner in India suggested on Thursday.
His statement came as Pakistan’s top military leadership vowed to thwart the designs of ‘hostile intelligence agencies’ against the country in what appeared to be a reference to the arrest and confession of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav last month.
“I think at present, the peace process between India and Pakistan is suspended,” Pakistani High Commissioner in India Abdul Basit was quoted by The Indian Express as saying during an interaction at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in New Delhi.
He said the root cause of distrust between the two nuclear-armed neighbours was the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. “What we need is to engage uninterruptedly, comprehensively, and meaningfully in dialogue. Therefore, its fair and just resolution, as per the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, is imperative,” the Pakistani envoy added.
Talking about Jadhav’s arrest in Balochistan last month, Basit said the development had “irrefutably corroborated Pakistan’s stance.”
“We all are aware of those who seek to create unrest in Pakistan and destabilise it. They are bound to fail as the people of Pakistan are united to effectively counter anti-Pakistan subversive activities,” he said. However, the envoy added that Pakistan desires normal, peaceful relations with India.
The Indian spy’s arrest and confession also came up during a meeting of Pakistan Army corps commanders at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday. The meeting, chaired by army chief General Raheel Sharif, vowed to take all possible steps to defeat the anti-Pakistan designs of ‘hostile intelligence agencies’.
Jadhav, in a video confession circulated last month, admitted to carrying out subversive activities inside Pakistan for India’s premier intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
A statement released by Inter-Services Public Relations said the military leadership undertook an ‘exhaustive review’ of professional matters and the country’s internal and external security situation, including ongoing operations against terrorists in the Shawal Valley.
“Apart from reviewing progress of ongoing counter terrorism operations, the corps commanders were also apprised about the activities of hostile intelligence agencies inside Pakistan and the response thereof,” the statement said. “They [the commanders] resolved to take all measures to block hostile acts against Pakistan, which can undermine our security and growth,” the military’s media wing added.
‘India’s consular access plea being considered’
At his weekly news briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said India’s request for consular access to Jadhav was under consideration. He said a decision will be taken in line with the bilateral agreement between the two countries on the issue of consular access.
“The request would be considered in view of the relevant clauses of the agreement,” the spokesperson pointed out. Sharing further details on the issue of the Indian spy, Nafees said investigations with Yadev were in process.
“Based on the confessional statement, our law enforcement agencies are making every effort to apprehend all individuals involved in subversive activities in Pakistan,” he added.
He said Islamabad was concerned at the subversive activities of RAW against Pakistan and its interests from various locations in the region. “We believe in living in a friendly and peaceful environment with all our neighbours, which can lead to the betterment of our peoples,” he said.
In reply to another question, Zakaria said Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani during his visit to Islamabad assured that his country will not allow its soil to be used against Pakistan.
Asked to comment on the prospect of resumption of talks, the spokesperson said dialogue was the best way to resolve issues between the two countries. He said the two countries were in contact with each other for the foreign secretaries’ meeting.
On the findings of the joint investigations team (JIT) which visited India to probe the Pathankot attack, the spokesperson said Pakistan was evaluating the information shared with its team by the Indian authorities.
He did not comment on media reports suggesting that the JIT had concluded that the Pathankot attack was an ‘inside job’ by Indian agencies. The JIT had been provided limited access to the airbase by the Indian authorities.
On the other hand, high commissioner Basit poured cold water over talks of an Indian investigation team visiting Pakistan to carry forward a probe into the Pathankot airbase attack.
“The whole investigation is not about the question of reciprocity in my view,” he said about the prospect of Indian investigators visiting Pakistan.
India’s external affairs ministry, in response, said reciprocity on the Pathankot investigations was part of the terms of reference agreed between the two countries. The ministry’s spokesperson VIkas Swarup pointed out that on March 26, 2016, before the Pakistan JIT’s visit, the Indian High Commission had formally conveyed to Pakistan’s foreign ministry terms of reference for the visit.
Separately, an Indian home ministry official stated that both sides had agreed in the terms of reference that Pakistani investigators would not get access to any defence personnel involved in the Pathankot operation.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2016.