Islamabad conducts raids; Delhi says there has been no official communication from Pakistan on action taken.
With just 72 hours to go for the proposed talks between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan, there was still little clarity over the meeting planned in Islamabad.
Mixed signals emerged from the highest echelons of the Indian government, even as reports said Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered a joint investigation team (JIT) — comprising officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI) — to look into the leads provided by India on the Pathankot airbase attack.
Reports said Pakistani authorities carried out raids in Gujranwala, Jhelum and Bahwalpur. Among the places raided was the house of Ashfaq Ahmed, brother-in-law of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, named as one of the handlers of the terrorists.
According to the Pakistani newspaper Tribune, the raids were being carried out under the supervision of the JIT.
In New Delhi, the government would not comment whether the steps taken in Pakistan would be seen as the “action on the ground” that India has been demanding, and said there had been no official communication from Pakistan on action taken against the Pathankot attackers. Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval denied he had said in a newspaper interview that the talks would be cancelled.
Inflict pain on masterminds, says Parrikar
In an interview to Dainik Bhaskar newspaper, an audio clip of which was made available online, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was heard saying: “We have told them [Pakistan] what they need to do. They have given us assurances they will take those steps. When they do, talks can go ahead; if they don’t, there is no question of them [being held on January 15].” Mr. Doval later clarified that he had not said the talks would be cancelled, as the paper had originally claimed.
However, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar took a markedly tough line in contrast to his Cabinet colleagues, calling for “pain” to be inflicted on “individuals and organisation” responsible for the Pathankot attack, believed to belong to Pakistan.
“We are proud of the seven soldiers [killed in Pathankot] but I get pain when my soldiers die,” Mr. Parrikar said at a defence seminar in Delhi on Monday.
“I always believe that anyone who harms you, he understands the same language. How, when and place should be of your choice. But if someone is harming this country, that particular individual or organisation should also receive the pain of such activity. Until this pain can be transmitted he will always enjoy giving that pain.”
Hours after Mr. Parrikar’s statement, the strongest made by the government thus far, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met Home Minister Rajnath Singh reportedly to discuss the latest in the investigations and the way forward with Pakistan, but gave no official statement.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, who is expected to lead the delegation to Islamabad for talks on January 15, left for Male and Colombo, without giving any comment whether he would travel to Pakistan for talks after those visits.
When asked, an MEA spokesperson said it would be “premature to say anything at this stage,” indicating that no decision had been taken on the talks.
Mr. Doval left for Paris on Monday night, as scheduled earlier.