New Delhi has conveyed to Islamabad that it must move beyond cosmetic action before the dates for proposed foreign secretary-level talks are renegotiated. The talks were proposed to be held on January 15 in Islamabad.
Back channels between the neighbours remain open; Pakistan has informed India about action being taken against the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the perpetrators of the Pathankot airbase attack.
A senior government official told HT: “India has given proof of JeM’s involvement in attack at Pathankot as well as at Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan to Pakistan. Now it is incumbent on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take substantive action against the proscribed group for the date of the Islamabad talks to be fixed. As of now no dates have been fixed. And what our intelligence agencies are picking up in Pakistan is only cosmetic action.”
That leaves just three days before the proposed date of the talks passes by. That the date will have to be reset is a virtual certainty but an official decision on this is expected by Wednesday. Top government sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is waiting for Pakistan to book the perpetrators before he takes a call on the talks.
The security establishment is not in favour of going ahead with the talks, but the political leadership has its eyes set on getting out of this vicious cycle of talks followed by terror attacks. On the anvil is an exploration of other long-term coercive options.
“Every time India has initiated dialogue with Islamabad, it has been attacked by Pakistan-based jihadists so that the talks are derailed. The Indian leadership wants the Lahore process initiated by Prime Minister Modi to continue but it is looking at other options to punish jihadists and their mentors,” said a senior official.
Home minister Rajnath Singh on Monday had a one-on-one discussion with national security adviser Ajit Doval. “After the daily security review briefing by intelligence chiefs to the home minister, Singh and Doval continued their discussion for around 20 more minutes. Both discussed the situation after the Pathankot attack,” said a home ministry official on condition of anonymity.
Also on Monday, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met Rajnath Singh. The meeting lasted over 20 minutes. “There has been no outright denial yet on the involvement of elements in Pakistan in the IAF base attack so far. What is also absent so far is an attempt to pass the buck. So we are analysing each development closely and an appropriate decision will be made accordingly at the right time,” said a source.
Meanwhile, defence minister Manohar Parrikar plans to call on Rajnath Singh to discuss ways and means to ensure that Border Security Force (BSF) personnel are made more accountable for infiltration through the Punjab border as has been the case in all terror attacks of the past one year.
Parrikar also has his eye on the Indian Air Force officers in charge at the Pathankot airbase as they failed to appreciate the terror threat and allowed Jaish terrorists to enter the station without challenge. This is evident from the fact that the Defence Security Corps guarding the perimeter were not on alert and the floodlights at the point of intrusion were deliberately made to point in a different direction.
WITH INPUTS FROM JAYANTH JACOB AND RAJESH AHUJA