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Will talk to Pak but time, place to be of India’s choice: Foreign secy

india Updated: Oct 19, 2016 01:50 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Surgical strikes

File photo of 2014 SAARC summit. Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay (L), India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C), Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (C, standing).(Reuters)

India will engage with Pakistan diplomatically in future but the date and time of any such engagement will be of the Centre’s choosing, foreign secretary S Jaishankar told a parliamentary panel on Tuesday.

When asked by members if India wants to resume dialogue with its hostile western neighbour from the position of advantage after the surgical strike inside the Pak territory, Jaishankar answered positively. “We had been engaging with Pakistan and will do so in future. But right now, we don’t have any fixed calendar even for talks at the secretary-level,” he told the panel.

Jaishankar also told the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs that army strikes on militant bases in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir last month had given Islamabad a taste of what India was capable of, sources said.

He added that the army had conducted targeted operations across the Line of Control before, but those strikes were not publicized.

“If you are asking whether our troops crossed the LoC and conducted calibrated operations before, the answer is yes. If you are asking if they achieved their targets and returned to India, the answer is also yes,” Jaishankar was quoted as saying by two members of the foreign affairs panel.

The foreign secretary added, “The only difference… this time we announced it a day later,” and cited unexplained diplomatic reasons for publicizing the operations.

Read | Modi praises Indian Army for surgical strikes, compares it to Israel

A week ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also spoken about shifting from yuddha (war) to Buddha . “Sometimes war becomes inevitable because of the existing situations. But we are those who can move ahead from yuddha (war) to Buddha. We make a balance between the two,” Modi said in a speech at Lucknow, indicating flexibility in India’s foreign policy.

The army strikes ratcheted up tensions with Pakistan and were seen as retaliation for an attack on an army base in Kashmir’s Uri last month that left 19 soldiers dead. Since then, India has also moved to isolate Islamabad globally.

The strikes have triggered a domestic political clamour with opposition parties demanding proof and alleging the government was trying to gain electoral mileage out of the operation.

But army vice-chief lieutenant general Bipin Rawat -- who briefed the panel members -- remained non-committal about submitting proof. “Our boys went for a swift, time-bound operation. They were given specific targets but not told to collect evidence,” he said. “However, we are trying to collate some proof.” The government had previously said that the army had submitted proof of the operation.

Read | Indian Army says ready to deal with any misadventure from across LoC

Panel chairman Shashi Tharoor and members such as Congress’ Satyavrat Chaturvedi and CPI(M)’s Mohammad Salim questioned the foreign secretary on a slew of militant attacks on army and paramilitary establishments that have continued even after the surgical strikes. Sources said Jaishankar said some “terror launch pads” were still active.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was present throughout the meeting. BJP MP Sharad Tripathi was more interested to know from special secretary (internal security) Mahesh Singla if the government would review the security of parliamentarians.

This was the second parliamentary briefing on the army operation in a week. The defence panel was briefed last week but no questions were allowed.