India defers foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan

The decision to hold foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan on January 15 has been deferred by the government till Thursday after reports of Pakistan initiating action against Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar for his alleged role in the Pathankot attack. In a late night development, Prime Minister Modi was briefed by foreign secretary S Jaishankar and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj regarding the developments in Pakistan ahead of the talks.

However, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said there has been no official confirmation on the arrest of Azhar.

The Pakistan government has claimed it has arrested Azhar, his brother and several individuals belonging to the dreaded outfit.

 According to reports, Pakistan sealed the offices of JeM after India demanded action on the terror outfit, linking the action to the fate of the Foreign Secretary-level talks.

Azhar’s brother Abdul Rehman Rauf has also been arrested, Pakistani TV said. While the arrest of several individuals was announced in a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office, there was no official word on Azhar’s detention.

Officials said Azhar and two other alleged terrorists, who were released from an Indian prison in 1999 in exchange for the release of 155 passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane, have been taken into protective custody after raids on several JeM offices.

Pakistan has also said it is considering sending a special investigation team to Pathankot as more information would be required to carry forward the process of cooperation with India.

The Pakistani action, which was reviewed at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, come as the fate of the FS-level talks scheduled on Friday hung in balance. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar is set to go to Islamabad for talks with his counterpart on resuming the bilateral dialogue process.

In the Pathankot terror attack on January 2, seven security personnel were killed. A PMO statement issued after the meeting on Wednesday said it noted with satisfaction that as part of Pakistan’s commitment to eliminate terrorism from its soil and the expressed national resolve not to allow the territory to be used for acts of terrorism anywhere.

It said a considerable progress has been made in the investigations being carried out against terrorist elements reportedly linked to the Pathankot incident. Based on initial investigations in Pakistan, and the information provided, several JeM individuals have been apprehended.

In the spirit of the cooperative approach, the statement said, it was also decided that in order to carry the process forward, additional information would be required for which the government of Pakistan is considering sending a SIT to Pathankot in consultation with India. The meeting reiterated that in line with the decision to counter and completely eliminate terrorism, Pakistan would remain engaged with India, the statement said.

Last week, India put the ball squarely in Pakistan’s court, linking the FS-level talks to Islamabad’s prompt and decisive action in the Pathankot attack for which it has provided actionable intelligence.


Courtesy India Today

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