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Anti-terror action of higher priority than talks, says Indian government

By Ians English

New Delhi, March 2: Amid speculation over the possibility of foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan after the cross-border terror attack in Pathankot, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar on Wednesday hinted that action against terror took priority over dialogue.

"In the aftermath of a terrorist attack if you ask me so what do you give priority to, a terrorist attack or a diplomatic dialogue, I think the answer should be obvious," Jaishankar said in response to a question at an interactive session during the Raisina Dialogue, a global conclave on geopolitics and geo-economics organised by the external affairs ministry and the Observer Research Foundation.


Talks between the foreign secretaries scheduled for the middle of January this year got derailed after the terrorist attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot on January 2 that claimed the lives of seven Indian security personnel.

The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack in which all the six terrorists were also reportedly killed.

India has since sent "actionable evidence" to the Pakistani authorities to bring the perpetrators of the attack to book.

Pakistan filed an FIR in Gujranwala last month against unknown terrorists in connection with the attack.

It also said that it would send a special investigation team (SIT) to India to probe the attack.

India and Pakistan had agreed on starting a comprehensive bilateral dialogue after a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistan prime minister's advisor on foreign affairs, during the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad in December last year.

Following this, Jaishankar said on Wednesday that he and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry were supposed to meet and discuss how the modalities of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue could be worked out.

"When the Pathankot attack happened, the governments of India and Pakistan have been in touch primarily through the NSAs (national security advisors), to some extent communications between me and my counterpart," he said.

"There was also a phone call between (Pakistani) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and our prime minister (Narendra Modi). The picture you see is of really parallel processes which are working," the Indian foreign secretary said.

Jaishankar's comments come after Aziz, who is currently on a visit to Washington, said that foreign secretary-level talks could be rescheduled soon after Islamabad's probe team visited Pathankot to investigate the attack.

Aziz said a Pakistani team would visit India "in the next few days" to investigate the attack.

After a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, Aziz on Tuesday said it was unfortunate that the Pathankot attack disrupted the resumption of secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan.

Since the attack, Pakistan had taken a number of "important steps" to facilitate resumption of the talks, Dawn online quoted Aziz as saying.


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