Foreign ministers of India and Pakistan will likely meet on the sidelines of a South Asian meeting in Nepal this week to discuss the next steps in their bilateral relations, but New Delhi is still awaiting dates for the visit by Pakistan’s special investigating team (SIT) on Pathankot attack.
The visit by the Pakistani probe team is critical to making progress in action against Pakistan-based terror groups responsible for cross-border violence, including the January 2 attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot. The latter is a precondition for resumption and sustenance of peace talks between India and Pakistan.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and foreign secretary S Jaishankar are expected to have bilateral interactions with their Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary, at a two-day ministerial meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), starting Wednesday at the Himalayan resort town of Pokhara in Nepal.
India expects Pakistan to furnish an update on their SIT’s proposed visit as well on their probe into the Pathankot attack. The progress into the investigation on Pakistan’s side remains limited to the detention of some Bahawalpur-based members of Jaish-e-Mohammad — the group India holds responsible for the attack — and sealing of some of its seminaries.
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Naseer Khan Janjua continue to be in touch with each other, but Islamabad has yet to propose any dates for the visit by its probe team, headed by Additional Inspector General of Pakistan Counter-Terrorism Department M Tahir Rai.
It was scheduled to come to India after Islamabad filed an FIR on February 18 on the basis of information on the attack India provided to Pakistan. The Pakistani probe team will be allowed to go to the scene of the attack — subject to final consent from the Indian defence ministry — and exchange notes with India’s National Investigation Agency, which is probing the Pathankot attack.
Pakistan’s action on Pathankot and relations between the two countries are expected to come up for review at a possible meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the March 31-April 1 Nuclear Security Conference in New York.
“We have moved beyond the sinusoidal relationship with Pakistan, where the entire diplomatic activity was wasted on either dialogue or no dialogue. The focus is now on tangibles with both sides accountable to the progress of bilateral relationship,” said a senior Indian government official.
Unlike the past, the Modi government has not broken off the dialogue with Pakistan despite the Pathankot attack and has demonstrated a willingness to move forward on the bilateral path as long as its terror concerns are addressed.