India-Pakistan Talks Put On Hold

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The recent terror attacks on Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot have cast a shadow over the Foreign Secretary (FS)-level talks between India and Pakistan, as New Delhi puts the talks on hold, saying that the Narendra Modi government will send Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to Islamabad only if the neighbouring country takes proper action against the perpetrators of attack.

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India toughened stand against Pakistan on Thursday after sharing a fresh set of evidence against the handlers – Ashfaq Ahmad, Hafiz Abdul Shakur and Kasim Jaan – who had given instructions to the terrorists who carried out attacks on the air base on January 2-4. New Delhi said in a statement that Indian National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval has not only sent the fresh evidence to his Pakistani counterpart (Retired) Army General Naseer Khan Janjua, but also held telephonic conversation with him thrice since January 4. Doval informed Janjua that India wanted to hold NSA-level talks with Pakistan before the FS-level talks scheduled to be held in the Pakistani capital on January 14-15.

A senior Indian official told the media on Thursday that as per evidences collected by Indian investigators, Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) was clearly involved in the Pathankot attack. The dossier includes call records from Bahawalpur and locations and addresses from where the calls originated. According to the official, India believes that timely action against JeM leaders, including their chief Maulana Mazoor Azhar, can only ensure successful bilateral talks.

Meanwhile, British political experts have opined that Prime Minister Modi’s Afghanistan-Pakistan diplomacy of December 2015 has rattled Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex.

Director of the Durham Global Security Institute Shaun Gregory told the ‘Hindustan Times’ daily that Pakistan-based terror outfits would never allow the two South Asian neighbours to normalise ties. He also said that although the Pakistani Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) back Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s “India policy”, terror outfits are not at all happy with the Pak premier’s initiative. “We can’t say, in my view, that the Army (or) ISI somehow ordered the Pathankot attack to torpedo the Modi-Nawaz rapprochement. After all political relations are still strained and no such attacks took place after other Modi-Nawaz meetings, including Nawaz Sharif’s attendance at the inauguration or the SCO sidelines meeting in Ufa in July 2015,” stressed Gregory.

Rahul Roy Chaudhury of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, too, believes that recent attacks on Pathankot air base and the Indian consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif could not have been a surprise to the Indian security establishment. He advised the Indian government to engage with the Pakistani civilian and security establishment, saying that it would be essential. Roy Chaudhury, who praised the Modi government for changing the dynamics of the India-Pakistan relationship over the past year, added that New Delhi would have to normalise ties with Islamabad through peaceful negotiations and be prepared for more such attacks.

For his part, Professor of Defence Studies at King’s College London Harsh Pant said: “Modi’s proactive Af-Pak diplomacy in December 2015 clearly ended up rattling those elements within the Pakistani military-intelligence complex that have a stake in perpetuating Indo-Pakistan hostility. So, the attacks in Pathankot and in Afghanistan are merely symptomatic of this enduring Indo-Pak conundrum and were to be expected.”

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