India on Tuesday used its first high-level contact with Pakistan since the January 2 attack on Pathankot airbase to send out a clear message: Islamabad must crack down on terror groups operating from its soil instead of being in “denial” on terrorism.
During talks with his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry ahead of a meeting of the Heart of Asia grouping, foreign secretary S Jaishankar also sought “early and visible progress” in Pakistan’s probe into the Pathankot attack and the trial of the alleged perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan, Jaishankar said, “cannot be in denial on the impact of terrorism on the bilateral relationship”. A statement from the external affairs ministry quoted him as saying, “Terrorist groups based in Pakistan targeting India must not be allowed to operate with impunity.”
Indian sources said the Pakistan side said the Joint Investigation Team that recently visited the country to probe the Pathankot attack is finalising its report.
Sources described the 100-minute meeting at Jaishankar’s chamber in the South Block as “constructive” despite the airing of contentious issues. They noted the foreign secretaries had exchanged ideas on taking the relationship forward and agreed to remain in touch.
Jaishankar also brought up the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) leader Masood Azhar under the UN Security Council sanctions committee.
Though JeM is on the sanctions list, its chief isn’t. Earlier this month, Pakistan’s close ally China blocked an Indian bid to sanction Azhar, accused of masterminding the Pathankot attack, at the UN.
Chaudhry raised all outstanding issues and “emphasised that Kashmir remains the core issue that requires a just solution in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people”, according to a statement from the Pakistan high commission.
He also took up the “capture” of a purported RAW operative, Kulbhushan Jadhav, and expressed “serious concern over RAW’s involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi”. Such acts, Chaudhry said, “undermine efforts to normalise relations”.
Jaishankar sought “immediate” consular access to Khulbushan Jadhav, a former naval officer who, he said, was “abducted and taken to Pakistan.”
The Pakistani side described Jadhav as a purported RAW operative and expressed “serious concern over RAW’s involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi”. Such acts, Chaudhry said, “undermine efforts to normalise relations”.
Our Statement on Foreign Secretary Jaishankar's meeting with his Pakistani counterpart pic.twitter.com/BtOuduz73M— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) 26 April 2016
Pakistan also raised all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, which Chaudhry said was “the core issue that requires a just solution in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people”.
According to a statement from the Pakistani mission, Chaudhry “conveyed concern over the environment being created in India for the release of the prime suspects of the Samjhauta Express blasts” and said India had not “shared investigation reports” regarding the 2007 bombing of the cross-border train that killed 42 Pakistanis.
The discussions also covered humanitarian issues, such as jailed fishermen and prisoners, and people-to-people contacts including religious tourism.
Chaudhry spoke about the “need for early commencement of comprehensive dialogue for which the Indian foreign secretary’s visit to Pakistan is due”. He expressed confidence the two sides will build on goodwill generated by recent high-level contacts and remain committed to a “sustained” dialogue.
The Pakistani side provided its talking points to the media while the meeting was underway.
Chaudhry led the Pakistani delegation to the meeting of senior officials of the Heart of Asia grouping that discussed the security situation and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
During external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Pakistan in December, the two sides had agreed to launch a comprehensive dialogue process. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore on December 25 to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after a trip to Kabul had also given a fillip to the peace process.
However, bilateral contacts were stalled after the attack on Pathankot airbase that killed seven security personnel.