PM’s aide denies backchannel talks with Indian NSA yielded icebreaker

Denial came after Indian media claimed Ajit Doval, Dr Yusuf had been in touch directly & via interlocutors for months


Our Correspondent February 25, 2021
Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Security and Strategic Policy Planning Dr Moeed Yousuf. PHOTO COURTESY: USIP

KARACHI:

Pakistan’s security czar Dr Moeed Yusuf has dismissed the Indian media reports, claiming that Thursday’s icebreaker in the acrimonious relations between New Delhi and Islamabad is the result of some backchannel diplomacy.

Dr Yusuf’s statement came hours after top military officials from Pakistan and India spoke on phone and agreed to ensure strict observance of a 2003 truce along the Line of Control (LoC) where troops from both sides have frequently exchanged light and heavy weapon fire.

“I have seen claims by Indian media that attribute today’s ceasefire announcement between Pakistani and Indian DGMOs [director general military operations] to backchannel diplomacy between me and the Indian NSA [National Security Adviser],” Dr Moeed Yusuf, the special assistant to the prime minister on national security, wrote in a series of tweets on his verified Twitter handle.

 

“This is baseless. No such talks have taken place between me and Mr. Ajit Doval,” he added. He clarified that “the welcome development on the LoC is a result of discussions through the established channel of DGMOs”.

Read more: Pakistan, India agree to restore LoC ceasefire after DGMOs talk

“Obviously, these are by their very nature not in the public eye and done privately and professionally through the direct channel,” he added.

Dr Yusuf recalled that Pakistan has continued to call for the 2003 ceasefire agreement to be honoured and “I am glad we have reached the understanding. It must be followed in letter and spirit”.

Frequent skirmishes on the LoC have taken a heavy toll on the civilian population living along the de facto border in Azad Kashmir. The clashes, however, became more frequent and deadlier in February 2019 when the two countries almost went to war Pakistani warplanes carried out a spectacular air raid deep inside Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and shot down two Indian jets in reprisal for a botched air strike by Indian air force in Balakot.

Earlier, Indian newspaper Hindustan Times claimed on the authority of “people aware of the matter” that the DGMOs contact came months after NSA Ajit Doval and his counterpart in Islamabad, Dr Moeed Yusuf, initiated backchannel conversations to ensure peace along the LoC.

Doval and Dr Yusuf have been in touch directly and via interlocutors from the intelligence community, a person familiar with the negotiations told HT. “Moeed Yusuf later confirmed that the two countries had been making efforts behind the scenes,” it claimed.

The joint statement is the first outcome of these conversations that included at least one face-to-face meeting in a third country, the person cited above said. He added that only a small group of top government leaders including union home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar were aware of the details of the talks.

Officials said Thursday’s joint statement could be the first of the many steps that the two countries may take over the next few months to normalise relations, one step at a time.

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