Pathankot terror: FS talks likely to be delayed, ball in Pakistan’s court


Jaishankar aizaz

With the Pathankot attacks, masterminded  by elements from across the border, India has made it clear that “the ball is in Pakistan’s court,” and indicated that the foreign secretary-level talks will depend on prompt action taken by Islamabad on actionable intelligence provided by New Delhi. 

“Prompt means prompt,” said Vikas Swarup, the spokesperson of India’s foreign office, injecting a note of urgency amid continuing ambiguity over the course of FS-level talks that are expected to chart out the course of the dialogue process between the two countries.

 “Today is January 7 and there are 8 days to go before January 15,” Mr Swarup remarked when asked about the talks.  

“We are waiting for Pakistan’s action on actionable intelligence… we are not giving any time frame… prompt means prompt,” said Mr Swarup, indicating a toughening of India’s stance on the Pathankot airbase attack that has been traced to handlers in Pakistan, widely suspected to be operatives of ISI.

No official decision has been taken yet on the FS-level talks, but in all probability given the sense of shock and outrage in India, it is set to be postponed. India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was scheduled to travel to Islamabad on January 14 for talks with his Pakistani counterpart to work out the schedule and format of meetings to discuss all issues under the newly christened Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue.

It’s possible that before the FS-level talks, there could be a meeting between National Security Advisers of the two countries, whose remit is to discuss issues relating to terror. India’s NSA Ajit Doval has been in touch with his Pakistani counterpart Nasir Janjua and is understood to have shared actionable information linking Pakistan-based handlers to the Pathankot terror attacks, suspected to be the mastermind of Jaish-e-Mohammed, the proxy militia of the ISI. In his telephonic conversation with PM Modi, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has assured that his government will probe the Pathankot attacks, an assurance that carries little credence in India given Sharif’s feeble control over the powerful military establishment which calls the shots on India-Pakistan relations.

But even if the talks were to resume, India will ensure that the focus will be on cross-border terrorism. “The Pathankot attack has put renewed focus on cross border terrorism”, said Mr Swarup.

The Pathankot terror attack has raised questions about Mr Modi’s audacious well-meaning gamble to visit Lahore to energise the India-Pakistan engagement, as the mood of the nation has radically changed following the airbase attack, diminishing the constituency for resuming engagement with Pakistan. The ball is clearly in Pakistan’s court, and only visible action by Pakistan against the choreographers of the Pathankot terror can restore Pakistan’s credibility in the eyes of India.

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