India, Pak agree to put talks on hold, for now
Govt welcomes detention of JeM members, says will aid Pak probe team
India and Pakistan on Thursday mutually agreed to defer talks between their foreign secretaries to the “very near future” as the neighbours tried to cushion their fragile peace process from the fallout of the Pathankot attack.
India welcomed the arrest of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) members, blamed for the assault on the Pathankot airbase, and said it looked forward to the visit of a Pakistani special investigation team to India. Earlier, foreign secretary S Jaishankar had called up his Pakistani counterpart, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary, requesting that the talks scheduled for Friday be deferred.
In a synchronised move, Pakistan’s foreign office said the foreign secretary talks were postponed to the “very near future” soon after external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup made the announcement in New Delhi. Sources said the next ten days were being looked at in the search for a new date for the meeting of the foreign secretaries.
The detention of an unspecified number of JeM members was described by Swarup as an “important and positive first step”. However, foreign ministry spokespersons from both sides denied having information on the detention of group chief Masood Azhar.
Officials in Pakistan said Azhar’s location is being kept a secret over fears of an attack by his supporters to free him.
Swarup said that a statement issued by the Pakistan government conveyed that “considerable progress” had been made in the probe against terrorist elements linked to the Pathankot attack. “We look forward to the visit of the Pakistani special investigation team, and our investigation agencies will extend all necessary cooperation to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice,” he added.
The airbase was brazenly attacked by militants on January 2, just a little over a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore. Since then, national security adviser Ajit Doval and his Pakistan counterpart Nasser Janjua have remained in constant touch, with both sides looking at ways to keep the peace process alive.
Though Swarup had earlier said that the ball was in Pakistan’s court, he seemed guarded with his responses on Thursday.
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Right-wing activists ransacked Pakistan Airlines office at Barakhamba Road in New Delhi on Thursday.