In­dia, Pak agree to put talks on hold, for now

Govt wel­comes de­ten­tion of JeM mem­bers, says will aid Pak probe team

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - HT Correspondent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

CON­TIN­UED ON P12

VIPIN KU­MAR/ HT

Right-wing ac­tivists ran­sacked Pak­istan Air­lines of­fice at Barakhamba Road in New Delhi on Thurs­day.

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