Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit on Thursday said bilateral talks between India and Pakistan were “suspended” and that there was no question of allowing an NIA team to visit Islamabad for the Pathankot probe.
However, the Ministry of External Affairs cited the Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson saying that both sides were in contact with each other over foreign secretary level talks. MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the visit of the National Investigation Agency team to Pakistan was on the basis of reciprocity, previously agreed upon.
Asked at the Foreign Correspondents Club here 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.
“India is not ready as yet,” Basit said, but quickly added that “we can only resolve issues through dialogue”.
Basit also ruled out a reciprocal visit by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to Pakistan to probe the Pathankot attack.
“The investigation (into the Pathankot attack) is not about reciprocity,” he said.
Swarup in his statement cited the Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Islamabad as saying that both sides were “in contact with each other” over the foreign secretary level talks.
The Pakistani spokesperson said: “…It has been reiterated from both sides that modalities are being worked out. I will again state that negotiations are the best means to resolve the issues.” He added that Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar too had indicated in a recent statement that talks would take place.
Basit also said that the arrest of an alleged Indian spy, Kulbushan Jadhav, proved Islamabad’s allegations that New Delhi was causing unrest in Balochistan.
The announcement comes nearly three and half months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Lahore on December 25 on an unannounced trip to attend the wedding of the granddaughter of his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
Modi’s trip had raised hopes about the resumption of peace talks between the rival neighbours.
Basit’s statement appears to be the first official word from Pakistan about the latest breakdown in the now-on-now-off peace process with India.
The meeting between the India and Pakistan foreign secretaries was earlier scheduled for January 15. But it was stalled after a group of suspected Pakistani terrorists attacked the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, killing at least seven security personnel.
After a team of Pakistani investigators visited Pathankot to probe Indian charges that Pakistani terrorists were to blame for the January 2 attack, New Delhi had expected Islamabad to allow the NIA to visit that country to take the investigation forward.
Earlier, reading out a prepared statement, Basit referred to the arrest of alleged Indian spy Jadhav in Balochistan last month and said that it “irrefutably corroborates what Pakistan has been saying all along”.
“We are aware of all those who seek to create unrest in Pakistan and destabilise the country. They are bound to fail.”
He said Pakistan had arrested scores of terror operatives with “foreign linkages” over the past month. “The presence of such elements is quite disturbing, to say the least.”
Jadhav was arrested on March 3 after he was allegedy deployed in Iran’s Chabahar port before crossing into Balochistan to meet some separatist leaders in the restive Pakistani province. India says Jadhav was a retired naval officer, not a spy. But Pakistan released a so-called confession video by Jadhav claiming he worked for Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) — India’s external spy agency — and had financed Baloch insurgents.
Basit also spoke on Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was “the root cause of mutual distrust and other bilateral issues”.
“And attempts to put it on backburner will be counter-productive,” he added. “The resolution of (the) Jammu and Kashmir (dispute) should be fair and just.”