The government is busy firming up the agenda for talks between the Indian and Pakistani national security advisers that are likely to be held on August 23 and 24 after this week’s deadly attack in Punjab that New Delhi blames on terrorists from Pakistan, HT has learnt.
The killing of seven people, including four policemen, in Gurdaspur cast a shadow over the resumption of dialogue agreed upon at a meeting of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif in Russia on July 10, but New Delhi believes it needs to engage with Nawaz Sharif’s government while keeping open the option of retaliation.
“The dates were suggested before the Gurdaspur attack and appear to be on track,” said an official involved with the preparations.
Gurdaspur attack casts shadow on Indo-Pak peace efforts
The talks between national security advisers Ajit Doval and Sartaj Aziz remain on track even though home minister Rajnath Singh struck a strident note in Parliament on Thursday, warning of a “befitting reply” to the state’s worst terror attack in over a decade.
The Ufa joint statement after the Modi-Sharif meeting said both sides had agreed to the meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.
Sources revealed India has told Pakistan that another attack or an escalation in border tensions in the run-up to the scheduled meeting between the NSAs will cast a serious shadow on the engagement process agreed on in Russia.
The Gurdaspur terror attack will now be on top of Doval’s agenda and investigating agencies are putting together evidence that points to “a Pakistani hand” in the attack. GPS data recovered from the devices recovered from the Dinanagar police station attack directly link the terrorists to Pakistan.
Apart from Gurdaspur, Doval is also expected to raise India’s concerns over the slow pace of the 26/11 trial and bail for Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the military commander responsible for coordinating the Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan, in turn, is preparing a dossier of what it perceives as India’s role in fomenting trouble in Balochistan and Karachi as well as the investigation into the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts that killed its citizens.
“While it is clear that the Gurdaspur terrorists crossed the river Ravi to enter Punjab from Pakistan, the talks are on track because the agenda of the NSAs is terror-specific," an official said.
The new strategy marks a change from the government’s earlier position when it summarily called off scheduled talked between foreign secretaries of the two countries after Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit held talks with Kashmiri separatists.