Kashmir Dominates in Indo-Pak FS talks


New Delhi: In their first formal bilateral meeting after Pathankot attack, Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan Tuesday held talks focusing on a range of sticky issues including probe into the strike and Kashmir, which Pakistani side asserted was the “core issue”.
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry expressed his reservation over the presence of RAW agents on Pakistan soil, as he met his Indian counterpart Dr S Jaishankar in New Delhi today on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Conference.
The Pakistan Foreign secretary raised the issue of Indian spy agency RAW’s subversive actions in Balochistan, including the arrest of Kulbushun Yadav, an Indian Naval officer from the province. “Such acts undermine efforts to normalize relations between the two countries,” Chaudhry said.
The meeting discussed bilateral issues that affect the two countries. “All outstanding issues including Kashmir came under discussion between the two foreign secretaries,” said a spokesman for the Pakistan High Commission in India.
The Foreign Secretary emphasized that Kashmir remains the core issue that requires a just solution, in accordance with United Nations resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Pakistan expressed its wish to maintain healthy relations with its neighbour India. “In line with our Prime Minister’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood, the Foreign Secretary underscored Pakistan’s commitment to have friendly relations with all its neighbours, including India,” the Pakistan High Commission statement said.
Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit was also present in the meeting.
According to a spokesperson for the Foreign Office, the foreign secretary also conveyed concern over the environment being created in India for the release of the prime suspects of the Samjhauta Express blasts.
“Despite repeated requests, India has not shared investigation reports in which 42 Pakistanis had lost their lives,” the foreign secretary pointed out.
Aizaz Chaudhry also expressed the confidence that, “building on the goodwill generated by the recent high level contacts, the two countries should remain committed to a sustained, meaningful and comprehensive dialogue process.
“He underscored the need for early commencement of comprehensive dialogue for which the Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit to Pakistan is due,” said the Foreign Office spokesperson.The meeting between the top diplomats of the neighbouring countries comes after a hiatus of several months following a militant attack on the Indian air base at Pathankot.
The meeting between the foreign secretaries sought to restore a dialogue that was disrupted since the Pathankot incident.
A statement from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said S.Jaishankar emphasised on “the need for early and visible progress on the Pathankot terrorist attack investigation as well as the Mumbai case trial”.
The Indian Foreign Secretary also stressed on “the impact of terrorism on the bilateral relationship” between the neighbouring countries.
The Indian diplomat also pressed for immediate consular access to Kulbhushan Yadav, the RAW agent captured planning subversive activities in Karachi and Balochistan.
There was no immediate formal word from the Indian side on the meeting.
Ahead of the meeting, the Indian officials had maintained that Pathankot attack and a possible visit by the NIA to Pakistan will be raised during the FS-level talks, which were deferred in January in the wake of the strike at the strategic air base at Pathankot.
India has been pressing for action against terrorists responsible for the attack on the IAF base in Pathankot, to take the talks forward.
This is also the first time the two foreign secretaries are meeting after the announcement of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue (CBD) by the Foreign Ministers in Islamabad last December. 
The two secretaries had a informal brief interaction during a SAARC meeting in Nepal in March this year.
The efforts to resume CBD at the Foreign Secretary-level hit a deadlock after the Pathankot attack that India said was carried out by militants from Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror group.
Jaishankar was scheduled to travel to Islamabad to hold talks with Chaudhary on January 15 but both the countries had announced deferment of the talks with “mutual consent” in the wake of the Pathankot attack.
Today’s meeting came in the backdrop of Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s recent comments that the bilateral peace process was suspended, evoking a sharp reaction by Indian side.
India has been maintaining that communication channels were on at various levels but also made it clear it wants to see action on terror and Pathankot first before the dialogue could be resumed.
Earlier, Jaishankar met Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai and discussed issues of mutual interests.

India, Pak should have direct talks on Azhar: China
BEIJING: India and Pakistan should resolve the issue over Masood Azhar through “direct” and “serious consultations”, China said on Tuesday, weeks after blocking India’s bid in the UN to ban the JeM chief that generated negativity in bilateral ties.
“We encourage all parties related to the listing matter of Masood Azhar to have direct communication and work out a solution through serious consultations,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a written communication to PTI here on the issue which drew serious protests from New Delhi over Beijing’s last minute move to block its bid to slap a UN ban on Azhar.
Replying to a question about whether there is any change in China’s stand on the issue after a number of top Indian officials conveyed India’s strong concerns over the move, Hua said as per the rules of the UN Committee on counterterrorism, the relevant countries should have direct talks.

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