Proposed talks between the national security advisers of India and Pakistan remain on track even though the process of re-engagement between the neighbours continues to be under the shadow of terrorist strikes from across the border, sources said on Wednesday.
However, Pakistan is yet to respond to India’s proposal to schedule the talks between Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, on August 23 and 24 following an agreement between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers in the Russian city of Ufa last month to resume dialogue.
Wednesday’s attack on a BSF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur and the strike on a police station in Punjab’s Gurdaspur last week – both by suspected Pakistani militants -- cast a shadow over the process of engagement.
One Pakistani militant was captured alive after the Udhampur attack, reinforcing New Delhi’s contention that Pakistan sponsors terrorism in India.
But unlike the past when India refused to engage with Pakistan after any terror strike, New Delhi is now following a two-pronged strategy: It has vowed to give a “befitting response” to any cross-border strike but has not slammed the door on talks.
Government sources said there was no change in plans following the Ufa agreement, which included discussions between the national security advisers on the issue of terrorism. The talks will provide an opportunity to bring to the table all terror-related issues against the backdrop of the Udhampur and Gurdaspur attacks.
“The Udhampur incident is telling. There is a terrorist caught alive and he is singing,” said an official.
A source said there was “evidence all over” that “Pakistani soil continues to be used for terrorist attacks against India and for any talks to be meaningful there has to be an atmosphere free of terror”.
So far, the government has maintained caution and successfully reined in any hardliners in the Sangh parivar and the ruling coalition, but the threat of terrorism could affect the prime minister’s efforts to sell the idea of normalising ties with Pakistan to the general public.