India has introduced some nuance rephrasing in  its lexicon on engaging Pakistan  on terror issues.  The Government on Thursday said “though terror and talks cannot go together, talks on terror can definitely go on.”

This was the response of Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar  on a recent ‘secret’ meeting between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Nasser Khan Janjua in Bangkok.

The Government feels  that though terror and talks (Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue) cannot go together, it will not mind discussing issues pertaining to terrorism through various mechanisms. This will take the wind out of  Pakistan’s attempts to blame India on international platforms for avoiding talks to de-escalate border tension.

Clearing the air on the NSA talks, Raveesh said the NSA talks were part of the various mechanisms established between India and Pakistan to talk about specific issues. He said India used the opportunity to raise the issue of cross border terrorism, infiltration and safe sanctuaries for terrorists along the border with Pakistan.

“I am agreeing that talks took place and our issue was eliminating terrorism from the region. While our position remains that terror and talks cannot go together, we believe talks on terror can definitely go ahead. Hence, the focus of the talks between NSAs of India and Pakistan was cross-border terrorism,” Raveesh said while confirming the Rs secret meeting’ between the NSAs of India and Pakistan.

The meeting took place in Bangkok on December 26, a day after ex-Indian Navy official Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is languishing in Pak custody, met his mother and wife in Islamabad.

The two women were humiliated and harassed by Pakistani diplomats and the media. This is the second time in two years the two NSA met in Bangkok, the last time being in December 2015. Raveesh made it clear that the meeting date of the NSAs was pre-decided.

At the political level, India has maintained that there cannot be Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue with Pakistan, after the Pathankot airbase terror attack. However, the two countries hold regular meetings and talks between the Director Generals of Military Operations, Director Generals of Border  Security Force-Pakistan Rangers, Indus Water Commissioners and the NSAs.

In fact, the two NSAs spoke shortly after the Pathankot attack in January 2016. There have been occasional telephonic engagements after that.

In addition, the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries have talked as and when need arise, though the formal FS-level talks, which were precursor to the CBD,  too have been put on abeyance. The MEA official made it clear that these mechanisms are not part of the structured CBD that was announced between the two countries during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad in 2015. However, the mood for CBD is built up following similar NSA talks in 2015.

Pakistani-based Dawn quoted officials as saying the meeting between the two NSAs as ‘good’ and ‘useful’. They added Doval’s tone and tenor was friendly and positive and the interaction might help in restarting some sort of engagement at the diplomatic level.

As carried in DP

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