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No reason why India-Pak foreign secy talks shouldn’t happen: Basit

Pakistan on Thursday said it expects India to go ahead with a planned meeting of the foreign secretaries even as it called on New Delhi not to indulge in a blame game because it undermines efforts to counter terrorism.

Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit said during a television interview in New Delhi that the two sides had acted maturely after the terror strike on Pathankot airbase and not disrupted their engagements. “I do not see any reason as to why the talks should not happen,” he said.

“Both the sides, the two foreign secretaries, agreed to have a meeting in the very near future. I can tell you they are in touch with each other but as yet they have not been able to pencil in the dates for their meeting,” he said, attributing this to a “scheduling problem”.

In Islamabad, Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said terrorism is not “only India’s problem” and it was “important to do away with the practice of unsubstantiated allegations as it undermines efforts to eliminate…terrorism from our region through a cooperative approach”.

He was reacting to the joint statement on counter-terrorism issued after French President Francois Hollande’s visit to India that specifically asked Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks and sought decisive action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, blamed for the Pathankot attack.

Both Basit and Khalilullah raised the 2007 bombing of the Samjhauti Express train and called on India to bring to justice the perpetrators of that attack, which killed more than 40 Pakistanis.

Basit acknowledged Pakistani prosecutors have been “struggling for closure” in the Mumbai attacks case because of several problems that arose from what he described as lack of cooperation between the two countries. He said a Pakistani judicial commission came to India almost four years after the Mumbai incident and wasn’t allowed to interview and cross-examine key people.

Pakistan is committed to expedite the Mumbai attacks trial but much will hinge on Indian cooperation, he said. If the seven Pakistani suspects in the case are acquitted, it would amount to a “failure” for both countries, he added.

The two sides should not repeat mistakes made in the investigation of the Mumbai attacks while probing the Pathankot incident, Basit said. “Some leads were shared with us by India and we moved immediately, started working on the basis of those leads. Meanwhile, we also constituted a six-member special investigation team. So that demonstrates our seriousness of purpose,” he said.

Basit was cagey when asked whether Pakistan has detained JeM chief Masood Azhar, blamed by India for masterminding the Pathankot attack, and said: “I personally feel it serves no useful purpose to discuss in public whether JeM leaders or operatives are in protective custody or in detention.

“I think (what’s) important is for the two countries to get to the bottom of things as to how the Pathankot attack happened, and then move against those who were the handlers…and masterminds and then take action against them to bring to justice so that should be our ultimate objective.”

The JeM was proscribed by Pakistan in 2002 but it “went underground”. This time, Basit said, Pakistan will deal with such groups “decisively” as there is a national consensus “that there is no room for these militants in our country”.

Without specifically naming Azhar, Basit said “no militant organisation or outfit will be spared” under the country’s National Action Plan for counter-terrorism.

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