Pathankot attacks: Pakistan, India reschedule peace talks

Indian troops at Pathankot, 3 January Image copyright AFP
Image caption Indian forces took four days to secure the crucial Indian Air Force base in Pathankot

Officials in India and Pakistan have agreed to re-schedule diplomatic talks which were postponed after a militant attack on an Indian air base.

India accused Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad of carrying out the assault in which seven Indian troops and six militants were killed.

On Wednesday, Pakistan said it had arrested several members of the group.

On Thursday, India said arrangements were being made for a meeting between foreign secretaries of both countries.

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. The attack has set back the peace initiative.

But on Thursday, officials from both sides said the talks remained on the agenda.

Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah said talks would not be held on Friday and that a new date was being considered.

His Indian counterpart Vikas Swarup said "both foreign secretaries [have] agreed to meet in the very near future".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Indian security officials say they believe that Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad was behind the Pathankot attack

Mr Swarup said India was happy with the steps Pakistan had taken so far to arrest some Jaish-e-Mohammad members.

"The action against members of Jaish-e-Mohammed is a positive step. We welcome the step," he said.

India has also agreed to host a team from Pakistan to investigate the Pathankot attacks.

"We look forward to the visit of Pakistan SIT [Special Investigation Team] and our investigative agencies will extend all necessary cooperation," he said.

Both Mr Swarup and Mr Khalilullah did not confirm the arrest of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar - a key demand from India.

Although Pakistan did not name those arrested on Wednesday, Indian and Pakistani media reports said Masood Azhar was among those detained.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says Mr Khalilullah's announcement suggests that India may not have found the arrests announced by Pakistan adequate enough.

But, continued engagement between the two sides indicates that India this time is willing to give time to Pakistan, instead of providing it with a chance to close its file on the matter, our correspondent adds.

The assault on the Pathankot air force base in Punjab, close to the Pakistan border, started on 2 January, when a group of gunmen - wearing Indian army uniforms - entered residential quarters on the air base.

The United Jihad Council - a coalition of more than a dozen militant groups fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir - claimed the attack.

The claim was met with scepticism - the UJC's core members are not known to have mounted attacks outside Indian-administered Kashmir.

Indian security officials instead blamed Jaish-e-Mohammed, an Islamist militant group based in Pakistan.

Started by Masood Azhar, Jaish-e-Mohammed has been blamed for attacks on Indian soil in the past, including one in 2001 on parliament in Delhi which took the nuclear-armed rivals to the brink of war.

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