Prime Minister Narendra Modi instructed colleagues as well as officials to refrain from any action that would wreck the process of engagement he set in motion with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa last week. A strong caution was sounded out against any knee-jerk reaction to statements from Pakistan, and it was decided to wait for two days to assess how various stakeholders across the border would respond to the terms of engagements agreed upon in the Russian city, HT has learnt.
Taking a cue from the PM’s directive, sources on Tuesday downplayed comments by Pakistan prime minister’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz on Monday, saying he didn’t say anything which affected the “actionable propositions” agreed upon during talks between Modi and Sharif in Ufa.
They assessed these comments, including a demand for more “evidence and information” on the Mumbai attacks of 2008 and no talks without Kashmir being on the agenda, as aimed at a “domestic audience” and under “certain pressure,” a euphemism for the Pakistan army.
It is learnt that Modi is of the view that India should engage with Pakistan to face the larger threat terrorism poses in the region, especially from the rapid rise of Islamic state (IS). This approach is all the more relevant with the IS threat in Af-Pak region like Afghanistan’s Farah and Nangarhar provinces, which border Iran and Pakistan respectively. The Pakistan army too is concerned about the threat of IS in the region.
At the Ufa talks, Pakistan had pushed for India giving “additional evidence” on Mumbai attack case in the joint media statement, but later two sides agreed to forgo it. Instead, the statement mentioned India getting voice samples of handlers of the 26/11 attack that killed 166 people in 2008 after which New Delhi called off the dialogue process with its western neighbour.
Another significant development at the meeting of the two prime ministers was the decision to keep their foreign offices out of border management issues, leaving it instead to those who directly deal with the matter on the ground.
Of the five outcomes of the meeting, three suggestions — meeting between national security advisers, meeting between directors general of the BSF and Pakistan Rangers followed by a meeting of Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) and facilitating religious tourism — came from the Pakistan side.
The release of fishermen from each other’s jails and expediting the 26/11 trial were mooted by the Indian side.
Sources said Modi had also seen the joint media statement, and it was the Indian prime minister who suggested the two sides having a common statement. Sources said “it was a mix and match approach” that was reflected in comments made by Aziz. The Pakistan leader, they said, was mixing the stated policy on Pakistan on various issues including Jammu & Kashmir and the outcomes at Ufa.
On Pakistan’s comment that the voice sample of Mumbai attack handler Lakhvi is not likely to be provided to India as agreed to in talks between the two prime ministers, sources indicated this matter would come up at the NSA meet. The joint media statement, sources said, was like a summary of what was actually said and agreed upon at the meeting and it was prepared with great rapidity, adding that it was signed by the Pakistani side. The two sides would go by this document as the template of agreement. They said the Lakhvi issue was raised forcefully and used as a metaphor to indicate India’s seriousness about action against Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed.
Sources then said the 60-minute meet had both sides raising all issues of concerns, including Balochistan by Pakistan and the China-Pakistan economic corridor that runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by India. They said the impression that there was no communication between the two sides for long was wrong as the two prime ministers have spoken over phone on a number of occasions.