India

Pathankot attack: India says talks only if Pakistan acts

An Indian military commando is seen on the top of a building at the Indian air force base in Pathankot, India, Tuesday, Jan.5, 2016 Image copyright AP
Image caption Seven Indian troops and six militants were killed in the gun battle

India has said that planned talks with Pakistan would go ahead only if Islamabad took action against militants that Delhi said were behind the deadly assault on the Pathankot air base.

A foreign ministry spokesman said the "ball is in Pakistan's court" and the "immediate issue" was their response.

Indian troops killed six militants during a four-day battle at the base in Punjab, close to the Pakistan border.

Foreign secretaries of the two sides are due to hold peace talks next week.

Although India has not officially announced any dates, Indian media reports say the meeting is due to take place on 14-15 January in Islamabad.

The assault on the Pathankot base started on Saturday, when a group of gunmen - wearing Indian army uniforms - entered residential quarters on the air base.

Seven Indian troops and six militants were killed in the gun battle.

Hopes for Delhi-Islamabad detente were raised in late December after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid an unexpected visit to his counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his way back from Afghanistan and the two sides announced plans to resume peace talks.

But the attack has come as a blow to the peace initiative.

"Pathankot terror attack has put renewed focus on cross-border terrorism," Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup told a press conference in Delhi on Thursday.

"The government's policy towards Pakistan is clear and consistent. India wants friendly relations with all its neighbours including Pakistan," he said, adding that "India will not tolerate cross-border terror".

On Tuesday, Mr Modi urged an "immediate" response to the Pathankot attack after Mr Sharif telephoned him to discuss the incident.

Mr Sharif promised that Pakistan would take "prompt and decisive action against the terrorists", Indian officials said.

India's Press Information Bureau said India had provided Pakistan with "specific and actionable" information on the attack.

Earlier in the week, the United Jihad Council - a coalition of more than a dozen militant groups fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir - claimed that its "national highway squad" was behind the attack.

The council, based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, is headed by Syed Salahuddin who also leads Hizb-ul Mujahidin, the longest surviving Kashmiri militant group.

Some Indian security officials have suggested the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed was to blame. India says the group is backed by Pakistan, but Islamabad denies this.

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