India, Pakistan Agree to Reschedule Peace Talks

Amin Masoodi
160114-IN-talks-620 Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, right, announced that his country arrested several alleged Jaish-e-Mohammad members over attacks at India’s Pathankot Air Force Station in Punjab earlier this month, Jan. 13, 2016.

India and Pakistan have agreed to defer foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for Friday in the wake of the attack on an Indian air base on Jan.2, the foreign ministries of the two countries announced Thursday.

They insisted that the talks had been postponed, not cancelled.

“The talks will be held in the near future,” Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told journalists in New Delhi.

In a statement released to the press, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said the decision to reschedule the dialogue was mutual.

The announcement came even as Pakistani media claimed Wednesday that the country’s security forces had arrested several alleged members of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), including the outfit’s chief, Masood Azhar, and sealed its offices.

While declining to confirm any information about Azhar’s detention, New Delhi said it had no reason to doubt Islamabad’s action against JeM. It is suspected of carrying out the pre-dawn attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station in Punjab state that claimed the lives of seven Indian security personnel.

The six attackers were also killed in a gun battle that lasted three days.

India last week rejected claims by the United Jihad Council, an alliance of 13 pro-Pakistani groups based in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir region, that it was responsible for the attack. New Delhi insisted that it had credible evidence, which had been shared with Pakistan, that JeM was behind the assault.

“There is no official confirmation on Azhar’s detention,” Swarup said, adding that the action against JeM reported in Pakistani media was a “positive initial first step.”

India also accepted a proposal from the Pakistani side to welcome a six-member special investigation team set up by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to jointly probe the Pathankot attack, Swarup said.

No impact on peace process

The rescheduling of talks between Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries would not significantly affect the peace process, which was initiated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he made an unscheduled stopover in Pakistan to greet his counterpart on Dec. 25, analysts said.

“The only way to demoralize spoilers creating disturbance in India or Pakistan is not to stall the dialogue process at any stage,” Gul Mohammad Wani, a Srinagar-based political analyst told BenarNews.

“The two countries must learn to talk to each other despite incidents like the Pathankot terror attack. Suspension of talks due to such incidents would certainly boost the morale of extremist forces to create more disturbances,” he said.

Relations between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since the partition of the sub-continent in 1947, have long been strained, with the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir being a major flashpoint in bilateral ties. The two sides regularly accuse each other of ceasefire violations and harbouring militants.

Despite the talks being postponed, Wani said he was optimistic about the approach of the two sides in handling their issues in a mature manner.

“The fact that India has confirmed its cooperation to Pakistani investigators in the Pathankot attack probe indicates seriousness on part of both countries to eliminate terrorism from the region,” Wani noted.

Sameer Patil, a security analyst at Mumbai-based think-tank Gateway House, said that by choosing to defer talks, India had sent a clear message to Pakistan that the latter was required to take sustained action against terror groups operating from its soil.

“Cross-border terrorism is a huge emotional issue in India. Therefore, it will be difficult for any government in India to pursue talks, when incidents like the Pathankot attack keep occurring,” Patil told BenarNews.

“India would like to see if the action reportedly taken by Pakistan against suspects of the Pathankot assault will sustain over a period of time or it turns out to be a superficial action to mislead the global community that Pakistan has acted against suspects and India should go ahead with dialogue,” he added.


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