Foreign secretaries (FS) of India and Pakistan are likely to hold talks towards end of the first week or in the second week of February.
They were scheduled to meet in the Pakistani capital on January 15-16 to finalise the modalities for Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. However, New Delhi and Islamabad postponed the meeting following terror strikes on an Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot (on January 2). The Narendra Modi government in New Delhi has hinted that Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry will finalise the date soon.
Meanwhile, the Nawaz Sharif government in Islamabad has said that the meeting will most probably take place either on February 6-7 or on February 7-8. A Pakistani official said over the weekend that the two foreign secretaries are in constant touch over the issue. Foreign policy experts of both India and Pakistan have welcomed the announcement, as they believe that the recent terror attack on the IAF base failed to quash the momentum for normalisation of bilateral ties generated by the top Indian and Pakistani leaderships.
The FS-level meeting will be crucial, as it will take place just six months ahead of the SAARC Summit. A successful FS-level meeting will certainly create a positive atmosphere in the region before the SAARC Summit. Or else, other SAARC members could ask the two regional rivals to postpone the Summit and resolve their outstanding issues first.
After the Pathankot terror attack, India asked Pakistan to take action against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist outfit for its involvement in the January 2 attack on basis of the evidence provided by New Delhi to Islamabad. Immediately after receiving the leads from India, Pakistan initiated a crackdown on JeM, including shutting down several seminaries associated with the outlawed group. The Pakistani government also formed a team to investigate the evidence provided by India about JeM’s alleged involvement in Pathankot attack.
Although JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, the mastermind of the Pathankot attack, still remains free, the two South Asian neighbours have agreed to hold FS-level talks, making it clear that they would never allow terrorists to dictate terms. Prime Minister Sharif, too, has admitted that Pathankot attack hit the bilateral peace process and pledged to uproot terror. Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad on Saturday, the Pak premier said: “Matters between Pakistan and India were moving in the right direction, but the Pathankot incident disturbed the dialogue process between the two countries. Pakistan will not allow terrorists to use its soil against any other country. These elements will be eliminated under an effective strategy.” He also said: “The investigation is under way and we will make its findings public soon. It is our responsibility to uncover if our soil was used in the attack.”