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January 7, 2016 10:36 pm

India identifies JeM as handlers behind Pathankot attack

New Delhi: Pakistan-based miltant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar, mastermind of IC-814 hijack case, are among four persons identified by Indian intelligence agencies as “handlers” behind the recent Pathankot attack.

Besides the agencies in New Delhi claimed to have found evidence that “conspiracy” was hatched near Lahore, top government sources said on Thursday.

The details of the four “handlers” have been shared with Pakistan “through proper channel” and India has pressed for stern action against them as a condition for any future talks with Pakistan, sources claimed.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is understood to have spoken to his Pakistani counterpart ex-General Nasser Khan Janjua and shared all relevant evidences including voice data, they said.

The development comes even as New Delhi put the ball squarely in Islamabad’s court, linking the Foreign Secretary-level talks to Pakistan’s “prompt and decisive” action in the Pathankot militant attack for which it has provided “actionable intelligence”.

Those identified by the Indian agencies are Azhar, Rauf, Ashfaq and Kashim, the sources said. Rauf was mastermind of hijack of Air India plane in Kathmandu, in 1999 which was later taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan. The eight-day hijack crisis had ended after release of three hardcore militants including Azhar in exchange for the freedom of passengers and crew members who were held hostage.

Asked as to what action India wants Pakistan to take against these four, the sources said they have to be arrested and handed to New Delhi so that they could be questioned in the ongoing investigation.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has recently said there are indications that some of the materials used by the militants were made in Pakistan.

Uncertainty prevails on talks scheduled for January 15, 2016 in Islamabad between Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry following the militant strike on the Pathankot air base. There is a widespread speculation that the talks may be put off to enable National Security Advisors to meet before that.

At a media briefing in New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup faced a barrage of questions on Foreign Secretary-level talks but he remained non-committal on whether the talks will proceed as scheduled or will be put off. “Today is January 7 and there are 8 days to go before January 15,” he remarked.

Without setting any deadline for Pakistan to take any action, Mr. Swarup said, “The terrorist attack on Pathankot air base has once again put renewed focus on the challenges posed by the cross border terrorism.”

“As far as we are concerned the ball is now in Pakistan’s court. The immediate issue in front of us is Pakistan’s response to the terrorist attack and the actionable intelligence provided to it.”

 Swarup was replying to a query about the status of India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks.

Referring to the recent telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, he said, “During that conversation our Prime Minister very strongly urged the Prime Minister of Pakistan to take action.

“Actionable intelligence in regard to the terrorist attack and the links with the perpetrators in Pakistan were provided to the Pakistani side. The Pakistan Prime Minister promised us prompt and decisive action. We now wait that prompt and decisive action.”

Asked if there was any timeframe within which Pakistan should take action, he said, “We are not imposing any deadline. At the same time prompt means prompt and we will go by the common sense interpretation of that word,” and rejected a contention that India’s demand would derail the talks.

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