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Foreign Secretary Talks: Pakistan is merely keeping up a pretence of dialogue

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:51 IST
FS talks
  • Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan met in New Delhi
  • Topics of discussion included Masood Azhar, Kashmir and terrorism
  • Experts say that these talks are merely a pretence that dialogues are on
More in the story
  • How does Pak\'s Afghanistan agenda play into these talks?
  • What do experts and diplomats have to say about the meeting?

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, today, met his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry in South Block where he firmly demanded strict action against Masood Azhar. Azhar is the Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief, who was behind the attack in Pathankot, according to the investigators. The two diplomats had a 90 minute conversation where issues of bilateral importance, including Kashmir and terrorism came up for discussion.

However, diplomats who have dealt with Pakistan say that not much should be made out of the meeting, and that it should just be seen as a pretence that the dialogue does not stand suspended. "I do not think there is any forward movement. They just want to show that there is some life in the dialogue," says Kanwal Sibal, the former foreign secretary.

Also read - India submits request to UN panel, demands ban on Jaish chief Masood Azhar

Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit in an interaction with the Indian media, had earlier this month commented that the dialogue between the two countries stands suspended, something which had irked the Indian diplomatic establishment. An impression was sought to be created that Basit did not represent the views of the Pakistani foreign policy establishment and was just conveying the view held by the hardliners.

"Foreign Secretary Jaishankar clearly conveyed that Pakistan cannot be in denial on the impact of terrorism on the bilateral relationship. Terrorist groups based in Pakistan targeting India must not be allowed to operate with impunity," the MEA spokesperson said. "India's Foreign Secretary emphasised the need for early and visible progress on the Pathankot terrorist attack investigation as well as the Mumbai case trial in Pakistan. He also brought up the listing of JeM leader Masood Azhar in the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee," the spokesperson added. 

Diplomats advise against reading too much into the Foreign Secretary talks between Indian & Pak

Experts say, that the current visit of Chaudhry should be looked at from the standpoint of Pakistan's agenda on Afghanistan. And that the Pakistani Foreign Secretary had no choice but to attend the senior officials meeting of the Heart of Asia, Istanbul Process.

"They want to know what India is up to," says a former diplomat. Pakistan is clear that it does not want India in Afghanistan. So the Foreign Secretary could not have avoided this important meeting. "This is the major reason that Chaudhry came to India," says another diplomat who pointed out that nothing significant has happened in the meeting except for the two senior diplomats conveying their issues.

Interestingly, even today, the Pakistanis had come out with a statement on the meeting even before it ended. The statement said that the issue of Kashmir was discussed and that Chaudhry reiterated that it needs to be resolved according to the UNSC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiris.

Sibal points out that it is the Army Chief who is calling the shots in Pakistan. Indeed, the revelations in the Mossack Fonseca episode by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which pointed out that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family could have parked money in tax havens, had made life difficult for the PM. Sharif, perhaps weakened by the Panama Papers expose, cannot take the challenge from the Army. "The General has become more aggressive," Sibal says.

Raheel Shareef, who recently sacked army officers on charges of corruption, has also mentioned how he wants to weed out corruption from the country. Seemingly, it was an indication to the Prime Minister that his days could be numbered, and that the army is planning to oust him. "He is clearly not safe," says Sibal.

Indian Foreign Secretary demands strict action against Masood Azhar

Others question how the Indian foreign policy establishment is assuming that the Army is on board with these developments. While the Pakistanis have not yet reciprocated by allowing NIA to visit Pakistan, they also got the Chinese to block India's request at the UNSC on Masood Azhar. China has also stated that India and Pakistan should talk to each other directly to resolve this issue through "direct" and "serious consultations". 

Moreover, the Pakistanis have not even allowed consular access to Kulbhushan Jadav, who they claim is an R&AW agent involved in instigating separatist in Baluchistan to destabilise Pakistan. They have also been claiming that they have unearthed a network of operatives with foreign linkages, an apparent reference to India.

Foreign Secretary Jaishankar in his meeting with Chaudhry, again reiterated that India be given consular access and for the first time said that Jadav was a former naval officer who was "abducted and taken to Pakistan". Sources say he also asked,  "Which spy agency would put their agent in the field with their own passport, and without a visa?" Pakistan claims that Jadav has an Indian passport with a valid Iranian visa.

Vivek Katju, a former diplomat and commentator says, "Whenever a policy is based on false assumptions and unilateral concessions, it leads to a failure."

More in Catch - Pak detains Masood Azhar. Is it anything more than a face-saver for Modi?Pathankot attack: Masood Azhar under protective custody, says Pakistan Minister

First published: 26 April 2016, 8:33 IST