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‘Action against terror takes priority over talks with Pak’

‘Action against terror takes priority over talks with Pak’
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said there are ‘obstacles’ in improving ties between the two countries and noted that Pakistan needs to change its attitude towards a number of issues, of which terrorism is ‘central’.

“In the aftermath of a terror attack, if you ask me what do you give priority to, a terrorist attack or a diplomatic dialogue, I think the answer should be obvious,” he said. 

The Foreign Secretary was replying to a question during an interactive session at the Raisina Dialogue – a conclave on geoeconomics and geopolitics –on whether Foreign Secretary-level talks were linked to action by Islamabad against perpetrators of the Pathankot attack, based on information given to it by India.

The comments by Jaishankar came as a five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) from Pakistan is likely to visit India this month to probe the Pathankot terror assault. India had said Masood Azhar, head of Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, masterminded the attack and sought action against him and other perpetrators.

Jaishankar said the two countries were in touch with each other following the attack, primarily at the level of National Security Advisers, and to a certain extent between him and his Pakistani counterpart. He said ‘parallel processes’ are at works. On improving connectivity between India and Pakistan, he said, “It takes two hands to clap” and that India would like to have same kind of ties 
with Islamabad like it has with other neighbours.

“Most people in this country want to treat Pakistan as a normal neighbour. So, we would like to do with Pakistan what we do with everybody else. But the fact is that there are obstacles and we know what the obstacles are,” he said, emphasising on the need need to remove them.

Talking about overall Indo-Pak ties, he said India was for a “much more modern relationship” with Islamabad but for that to happen the neighbouring country needed a change in attitude towards a number of issues of which terrorism is a “central” one.

To a question whether India and Pakistan can remain isolated, Jaishankar said they should not and that New Delhi has been making sincere efforts to improve its ties with Islamabad.

“I cannot think of any Prime Minister of India who did not strive for better relations with Pakistan. There may be differences in nuances, pace and packaging,” he said. 

Last month, Pakistan had lodged an FIR in the Pathankot terror attack case which was seen by India as a “step forward” in bringing the perpetrators of the strike to justice. The FIR was filed against “unknown persons” though India had named Masood Azhar as the mastermind of the strike.

India had submitted evidence to show that the six perpetrators who attacked the air base came from across the border, and demanded action against the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed led by Azhar.
On Tuesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz said the SIT may visit India in the next few days and hoped that the Foreign Secretary-level talks will be scheduled very soon.

In his address at the Raisina Dialogue, a joint initiative of the Ministry of External Affairs and a leading think tank, Jaishankar pitched for better connectivity among countries of Asia, asserting India was no longer content to be a passive recipient of outcomes.

The comments assume significance in the wake of reports that China has stationed up to five ships around a disputed atoll in the South China Sea.
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