The audacious terror attack by Jaish e-Mohammed militants at Indian Air Force base in Pathankot has shocked India’s security establishment and triggered an internal brainstorming session by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with the country’s former envoys to the neighbouring country.
The envoys who were present at the meeting in New Delhi on January 3, included S. K. Lambah, G. Parthasarathy, Shyam Saran, Shivshankar Menon, Satyabrata Paul, Sharad Sabharwal and T.C.A. Raghavan who had served in Islamabad over the last two decades. The discussions focused on different scenarios and strategies of dealing with Pakistan in the wake of the latest attack, which has once again pitchforked terror at the centrestage of the agenda of the recently revived India-Pakistan engagement.
The Pathankot terror attack, point out intelligence agencies, shows the footprint of detailed planning by terrorists’ handlers from across the border.
The attack, if it’s found to be linked to Pakistan’s all-powerful military-ISI establishment, can blow away all the bonhomie and goodwill generated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore over a week ago.
For now, India has not announced postponement or cancellation of the foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for mid-January in Islamabad. India’s Foreign Secretary S.Jaishankar’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry in Islamabad on January 15 is expected to map the path ahead in the comprehensive bilateral dialogue the two countries decided to launch last month. While the talks are expected to go on as scheduled, terror could once again become the centre of focus in the talks between the two countries.
In his New Year message, Pakistan’s Army Chief Raheel Sharif had declared that terror would be eliminated in Pakistan, but it is hardly enough to convince India, unless there is some tangible progress made on the ground. The Pathankot attacks would once again give India the leverage to question Pakistan’s commitment to combat terror.
The next few days would be crucial to charting out the future course of engagement between the two estranged neighbours.
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