India-Pak foreign secretary talks likely in mid-February

The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan, who were earlier scheduled to meet in Islamabad on 15 January to finalise the modalities of a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue but postponed it following the Pathankot terror strikes, are now exploring the possibility of holding their meeting towards end of the first week or in the second week of February.

Officials from the two sides have been in touch with each other for rescheduling the meeting, according to an Economic Times report citing government sources. The two sides are trying to schedule the meeting keeping in mind other preoccupations of both foreign secretary S Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

It has been learnt that the two sides are mulling the dates of 6-8 February to schedule the meeting. The Indian foreign secretary has been pre-occupied with the French President's visit during the past week following his visit to Maldives and Sri Lanka. The schedule of his trip to Islamabad will be chalked out in the coming days.

A Pakistani official had said couple of days back that the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan are expected to meet next month and the two sides are in touch for finalising the new dates amid some "forward movement".

"The two sides are in touch over the issue of the talks and dates would be announced after mutual agreement," the official said, adding, the foreign secretaries' meeting next month would prove that the terrorist act had failed to quash the momentum for normalisation of ties generated by leaderships of both countries.

The FS-level meeting will decide on the schedule of meetings under the Dialogue over the next six months prior to the SAARC Summit.

India had sought action by Pakistan on the evidence provided for apprehending the JeM terrorists behind the 2 January attack on the Pathankot air base and has linked the fate of the talks to action by Pakistan.

The two NSAs mandated to discuss terror are in regular touch to discuss progress in the Pathankot case.

Following the leads provided by India, the Pakistan government initiated a crackdown on JeM including shutting down several seminaries associated with the outlawed group. It also formed a team to investigate the evidence provided by India about JeM's alleged involvement.

However, JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, the man behind the attack, remains free. Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif has informed that his government is conducting probe based on the second set of evidence from India.

Earlier a statement on the deferment of the meeting, issued by Delhi and Islamabad, said, "India and Pakistan have agreed to reschedule Foreign Secretary-level talks in the very near future."

Meanwhile, the planned visit of a team of Pakistani team to India has not yet been firmed up. "The team would first present its findings to the government, which would then decide about the visit," a Pakistani official said. Pakistan is also awaiting NIA to complete probe at the site of attack in Pathankot.