External Affairs

India Calls for Action in Pathankot, Pakistan Brings up Kashmir in Foreign Secretary Level Talks

The Wire has parsed down the two public statements to help readers take note of the positions of both countries.

India Foreign Secretaries S. Jaishankar with his Pakistani counter part Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary. Credit: Twitter/@MEA

India Foreign Secretaries S. Jaishankar with his Pakistani counter part Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary. Credit: Twitter/@MEA

New Delhi: They met, talked across each other, raised their ‘core issues’ and dispersed with an unfinished agenda. Foreign Secretaries S. Jaishankar and Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary had their first bilateral meeting since India and Pakistan re-opened channels of communication late last year. But, the meeting seemed to be mainly to counter perception that the peace process was “suspended” and given an opportunity to both countries to raise their laundry list of pet bug bears – terrorism by India, Kashmir by Pakistan, with the path ahead on taking forward the peace process still not clear.

Held in the foreign secretary’s suite of rooms in South Block, the two of them were joined by a phalanx of officials for the meeting which lasted 90 minutes. Even as the meeting had begun, Pakistan foreign office released a short statement on Twitter – an unusual move even by Islamabad’s standard.

Chaudhury was in India to take part in the senior officials meeting of the Heart of Asia Summit – the regional mechanism to support Afghanistan’s political and economic challenges.

The Indian statement described the meeting as “frank and constructive”, with officials noting that there was “no beating about the bush” about critical concerns. This was, however, not the meeting of foreign secretaries that the India and Pakistan had announced in December 2015 would lead to start of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. The setting of today’s tryst was chosen to reflect this – sitting on adjacent sofa chairs, rather than face-to-face in a conference room.

The setting for today’s tryst was also chosen to reflect to this – sitting on adjacent sofa chairs, rather than face-to-face in a conference room.

It was clear that both capitals wanted to give the perception that peace process was chugging along – Pakistan, along with Afghanistan, were the only countries represented at the Heart of Asia by foreign secretaries, while others were at the rank of director general.

At the end of the meeting, there was no bilateral joint statement – with sources stating that it would have only happened if there had been any agreement on dates for NIA visit or Jaishankar’s visit to Islamabad.

The Wire has parsed down the two public statements to help readers take note of the positions of both countries.

Pathankot Air Force base attack and Terrorism

Pakistan: No mention

India: “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”

“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.”

(When foreign secretary inquired about the status of the probe of the Pakistan Joint Investigation team which had visited India, the Pakistan side noted that they were were still following up on leads. There was also apparently no clear answer given on current status of Masood Azhar, who as per Pakistani officials was in protective custody. 

In a separate development on this front, China foreign ministry spokesperson said on April 26 that the issue of UNSC listing over Masood Azhar was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan – bringing to an end New Delhi’s gambit to pressurise Beijing to remove its ‘technical hold’. The Chinese statement came after India cancelled the visa for an exiled Uyghur activist, which was apparently done to indicate New Delhi’s ire with China over Masood Azhar.

Jaishankar had also prodded Pakistan to give a sense about the possibility of a visit by National Investigative Agency, but there was silence from the other side. However, there is a perception that Pakistani silence may not mean that doors have been closed on a NIA trip, rather that Islamabad may be dragging this to turn it as a bargaining chip for other issues – like a visit by Indian foreign secretary.

India also pointed out that there had to be some progress on Pathankot, and therefore on the CBD, with high level visits on the anvil. Jaishankar reminded that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has agreed to visit Pakistan for the Saarc summit in November this year.)

Kashmir

Pakistan: “All outstanding issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute were discussed. The Foreign Secretary emphasized that Kashmir remains the core issue that requires a just solution, in accordance with UNSC resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.”

India: No mention

(Pakistan foreign office tweeted that Foreign Secretary Chaudhury had raised Kashmir just as the meeting had begun – which obviously the Indian delegation learned only after the encounter ended. With Pakistani leadership having made noises about Kashmir remaining a core issue in bilateral relations, there was no surprise that Pakistan had raised the contentious issue – but the speed with which it was conveyed outside did raise eyebrows.)

Samjhauta blast investigation

Pakistan: “He also conveyed concern over the efforts by the Indian authorities for the release of the prime suspects of the Samjhauta Express blasts.

The foreign Secretary also conveyed concern over the environment being created in India for the release of the prime suspects of the Samjhauta Express blasts. He further pointed out that, despite repeated requests, India has not shared investigation reports in which 42 Pakistanis had lost their lives.”

India: No mention

(With India calling for “visible progress” in Pathankot attack and Mumbai case trial, Pakistan naturally brought up the Samjhauta case, which has seen high visibility in certain Indian media quarters in recent times. As per sources, India reiterated that Pakistan should not go as per media reports on this matter)

Kulbhushan Yadav

Pakistan: “The Foreign Secretary also took up the matter of capture of RAW officer, Kulbushan Jadev and expressed serious concern over RAW’s involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi. He said such acts undermine efforts to normalize relations between the two countries.”

India: “We pressed for immediate consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, the former Naval officer abducted and taken to Pakistan.”

(Indian sources said that Jaishankar “rebutted” allegations of Indian involvement in Balochistan and other areas in Pakistan. He also asked whether any spy agency would put their agent in the field with their own passport, and without a visa.

Even as India reiterated its demand for consular access, there was no major expectation of Pakistan giving access. In an interview to an Indian channel, Sartaj Aziz indicated that Yadav as a ‘spy’ would require separate treatment.)

Peace Process

Pakistan: “In line with our Prime Minister’s vision of peaceful neighborhood, the Foreign Secretary underscored Pakistan’s commitment to have friendly relations with all its neighbors, including India.

He expressed the confidence that, building on the goodwill generated by the recent high level contacts, the two countries should remain committed to a sustained, meaningful and comprehensive dialogue process.

In this spirit, the Foreign Secretary underscored the need for early commencement of comprehensive dialogue for which the Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit to Pakistan is due.”

India: “The discussions also covered humanitarian issues including those pertaining to fishermen and prisoners, and people to people contacts including religious tourism.

The two Foreign Secretaries exchanged ideas on taking the relationship forward and agreed to remain in touch”

(Pakistan foreign secretary’s remarks made it clear that the today’s meeting was not a replacement of the delayed January encounter. Rather, the comprehensive bilateral dialogue process required Jaishankar to travel to Islamabad for its formal relaunch, insisted Chaudhary.

With India insisting on “visible progress” on Pathankot, a visit by the Indian foreign secretary may not be on the cards, yet. India, on its part, suggested that both sides could move ahead on the tracks on religious tourism, people to people contacts and fishermen, rather than await the comprehensive bilateral dialogue to begin rolling. Pakistani delegation listened and promised to get back on.)