As the Indian Army’s anti-terror operation in Pathankot continued for a third night on Monday, India, undeterred by the attack, plans to hold the Foreign Secretary (FS)-level talks with Pakistan in Islamabad on January 15.
A senior External Affairs Ministry official said that a powerful explosion, which shook a double-storeyed building at the air base on Monday morning, indicated that two terrorists might have been hiding in Pathankot. He also said that the possible presence of two more members of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group inside the Indian Air Force (IAF) base for more than 72 hours prompted the Indian Army to continue the operation. According to the official who wished to remain anonymous, the Narendra Modi government has asked Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to raise the issue of Pathankot attack during his meeting with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry next Friday.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi chaired a meeting of the National Security Council on Monday to discuss the attacks on the Pathankot air base and the Indian Consulate in Afghanistan’s Mazar-e-Sharif (on Sunday). At the meeting, the PM told Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval that it would be important to prepare a roadmap to carry forward the engagement with Pakistan under the newly-announced “Bilateral Comprehensive Dialogue”. He said that New Delhi should not allow people, who are unhappy with India and Pakistan’s efforts to normalise ties, to dictate terms. Modi believes that these people may send more terrorists to India in the coming days in order to derail bilateral talks.
In a separate development, the United Jehad Council (UJC) – an umbrella organisation of about a dozen Kashmiri terrorist outfits – issued a statement on Monday, claiming responsibility for the Pathankot attack. However, the Indian government rubbished the statement, stressing that it was an attempt to show that Kashmiri insurgents, and not Pakistan-based terrorists, were responsible for the attack. Inspector General of National Security Guard Major General Dushyant Singh said we should not forget that UJC, which comprises mostly terrorist outfits active in Jammu and Kashmir, is headed by Syed Salauddin and he is based in Pakistan.
The two foreign secretaries, bearing in mind the current security scenario in the region, will not only discuss the issue of terror, but also modalities and other schedule-related aspects in order to carry forward the bilateral dialogue process.