Talks between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan slated for January 15 seemed to be on thin ice as New Delhi on Thursday linked the event with “decisive and prompt” action by Islamabad on the deadly terror attack at the Pathankot airbase.
The foreign ministry stated the position without setting a deadline for Pakistan, even as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed the terrorist strike at a high-level meeting in Islamabad. He was reportedly briefed about the status of a ban on the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which is suspected to be behind the attack.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his cabinet colleagues that bilateral talks would not resume until Islamabad took action against the terror group and he had made this clear during a phone call with Sharif.
“Action is a must. We are going to be very strict about it,” Modi was learnt to have said at the meeting.
Indian security agencies have identified five key figures from JeM who were involved in the conspiracy and New Delhi wants Islamabad to act against them. The terrorists under the scanner are the group’s chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother Rauf Asghar, Maulana Ashfaq Ahmad, Hafiz Abdul Shakur and Kasim Jan.
Unlike in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case where it remained in constant denial, Pakistan has not rejected India’s assertions about the role of the terror outfit in the Pathankot attack.
“India wants peaceful ties with all neighbours, including Pakistan but will not countenance cross-border terrorism. Actionable intelligence was given to Pakistan. Ball is in Pakistan’s court now,” ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters on Thursday.
He, however, parried questions about the possibility of the talks being cancelled, maintaining that India was not fixing any deadline for Pakistan to respond, nor was it “foreshadowing” the talks.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who assured us a prompt response... India now awaits a prompt and decisive action,” said Swarup.
“Eight days remain for the foreign secretary-level talks between the countries; let’s see what happens in the days before January 15.”
The meeting Sharif chaired in Islamabad was attended by his national security adviser, Naseer Khan Janjua, foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz.
Janjua, according to sources, briefed them about his discussions with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval.
A brief statement issued after the meeting by Sharif’s office only said “issues pertaining to national and regional security were discussed” but did not give details.
Pakistan has condemned the Pathankot attack and said it wants to build on the goodwill created by a December 25 meeting between Modi and Sharif when the Indian PM called up his Pakistani counterpart from Kabul and took an impromptu decision to fly down to Lahore on the latter’s invitation.