External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj went into a huddle with former senior diplomats who had extensive experience in Pakistan on Sunday as terrorists allegedly from across the border continued to fire at security forces inside the Pathankot air base.
The pre-dawn Saturday strike is being seen as an attempt to cripple ongoing bilateral overtures and proposed talks later this month and most experts at the meeting advocated a realistic strategy of “not lowering the guard on the borders” while seeking to engage with Pakistan, sources said.
“It is a real challenge how to keep engaging with Pakistan in the wake of public sentiment over daring incidents like the one on the Indian Air Force Base in Pathankot. In diplomacy, patient negotiations pays but the right atmosphere for talks are also necessary”, said one of the participants.
The meeting, billed as an “internal brainstorming session”, was attended by former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, former national security adviser and envoy to Pakistan Shiv Shankar Menon and former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy to Pakistan, S K Lambha. Three former Indian high commissioners to Pakistan -- Satyabrata Pal, Sharat Sabharwal and TCA Raghavan – were also present.
Some participants refused to comment. “The operation in Pathankot is still on, so one should not make any comments now,” Shyam Saran told HT.
The government is faced with the difficult situation of terror outfits attacking Indian targets and vitiating the atmosphere for the dialogue process yet again.
Jaish-e-Mohammad, the outfit believed to be behind the IAF base attack, has been operating with impunity, despite it being a banned entity. The attack comes a week after Prime Minister Naredra Modi’s visit to Pakistan and less than two weeks before foreign secretary level meeting in Islamabad to announce a timeline for a comprehensive engagement between the two sides.