In the face of Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s comment that “at present the peace process is suspended” exactly a week back, Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria has said the door for negotiations with India was very much open. “Yes, dialogue is the best option,” Zakaria said in response to a question whether the door was still open for negotiations between India and Pakistan at his weekly media briefing in Islamabad. “Diplomacy is for interaction and engagement between countries,” he said.
Asked at the Foreign Correspondents Club in New Delhi in a media interaction exactly on April 7 about a meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two countries, Basit said: “There is no meeting scheduled for now. I think at present the peace process is suspended.”
Foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries scheduled for the middle of January this year were derailed following the January 2 cross-border terror attack on the Pathankot Indian Air Force base in which seven Indian security personnel were killed.
The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the attack in which the six attackers were also reportedly killed.
The two south Asian neighbours had agreed to start a comprehensive bilateral dialogue during a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Sartaj Aziz, the advisor to the Pakistan prime minister on foreign affairs, in December.
This happened after Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif had a seemingly impromptu meeting at the Conference of Parties (CoP)-21 climate summit in Paris on November 30 last year which was followed by a meeting between the national security advisors of the two nuclear-armed neighbours in Bangkok on December 6.
The neighbourly rapport got a significant boost when Modi made a surprising stop at Lahore on his way back to New Delhi from Kabul on Christmas Day on the occasion of his counterpart’s birthday.The next day was the wedding of Sharif’s daughter. However, the terror attack in Pathankot on January 2 strained relations between the two countries.
India said it sent “actionable evidence” to Pakistani authorities to bring the perpetrators of the attack to book.Pakistan filed an FIR in Gujranwala in February against unknown terrorists in connection with the airbase attack. It then sent a joint investigation team (JIT) to India in March-end to probe the attack. Basit held the press conference after the JIT’s departure.
In Thursday’s media briefing, Zakaria said that during Modi’s visit to Pakistan in December, it was decided that the two foreign secretaries should meet soon.
“It is hoped that both sides would work out modalities for the FS level talks. We need to look ahead and not think in terms foreclosing any options. Both sides are in contact with each other. Once the modalities are worked out secretary-level talks would take place,” he said.
Replying to a range of questions, Zakaria said: “At our level here in the ministry, we do not give a day-to-day running commentary on official policy.”
As to the visit of the JIT, he said that it was evaluating the information shared by the Indian side.
“It may be appropriate to allow the investigations to take its due course rather than indulge in speculations,” the spokesman said.
To a question about Kirpal Singh, an Indian prisoner who died in Pakistan on April 11 following what the authorities claimed was a heart attack, Zakaria said that it was “not appropriate to see everything through the prism of suspicion and conspiracy”.
“He was kept in intensive care at the hospital but he could not survive. He was given death sentence and life imprisonment by anti-terrorism court,” he said.
“We have communicated this information to the Indian high commission in Islamabad.”
Kirpal, 54, died at a hospital in Pakistan’s Kot Lakhpat Jail. He was alleged to have been involved in a bombing at Faisalabad Railway Station in 1991 and sentenced to death for spying and terrorism in Pakistan. (IANS)