Salvaging India-Pakistan dialogue? ‘Sharif sets up probe into Pathankot terror’

Sharif

With India linking the future of talks with prompt and concrete action by Islamabad against Pathankot terrorists, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is reported to have set up a joint investigation team (JIT) comprising officials of the country’s military-establishment.

The decision to form the JIT, comprising officials from Intelligence Bureau (IB), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI), was taken at a meeting chaired by Mr Sharif recently, the Express Tribune, a Pakistani daily, said.

The report added that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, National Security Adviser Lt-Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua, Prime Minister’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, special assistant to the Prime Minister on foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi and finance minister Ishaq Dar were among those who attended the meeting.

If the report is true, it’s an unprecedented response by Pakistan as in the case of previous terror attacks against India, Islamabad had tended to resort to denials and equivocations. The prompt response is aimed at salvaging the foreign secretary level talks, scheduled for January 14-15 in Islamabad, with India talking tough and making it clear that the planned engagement will only take place if Pakistan takes concrete action against the perpetrators of the Pathankot attacks and their handlers.

India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has categorically stated that it will talk with Pakistan only after it takes some action against the perpetrators of the airbase assault.  “We will talk only if Pakistan takes action,” Mr Doval said on January 11.

With barely three days to go, it looks extremely unlikely that the FS-level talks will go as planned. But Pakistan can still surprise India if it can make a visible and convincing case that the civilian and military wings of the country’s establishment have come together to act upon the leads provided by India.

The Pathankot attacks are widely seen as a betrayal and backstabbing by the Indian government as it occurred within days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking an out-of-the-box initiative to fly to Lahore to meet Mr Sharif, kindling hopes of a new beginning in strained India-Pakistan relations.

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