Islamabad: A week after Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit said “at present the peace process is suspended”, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria on Thursday said the door for negotiations with India was very much open.
“Yes, dialogue is the best option,” Zakaria said in response to a question whether the door was still open for negotiations between India and Pakistan at his weekly media briefing in Islamabad.
“Diplomacy is for interaction and engagement between countries,” he said.
Asked at the Foreign Correspondents Club in New Delhi in a media interaction on April 7 about a meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two countries, Mr Basit had said, “There is no meeting scheduled for now. I think at present the peace process is suspended.”
Foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries scheduled for the middle of January this year were derailed following the terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in which seven security personnel were killed.
Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad had claimed responsibility for the attack in which the six attackers were also killed.
The two neighbours had agreed to start a comprehensive bilateral dialogue during a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Sartaj Aziz, the advisor to the Pakistan prime minister on foreign affairs, in December.
It came after Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif had a seemingly impromptu meeting at the Conference of Parties (CoP)-21 climate summit in Paris on November 30 last year which was followed by a meeting between the national security advisors of the two nuclear-armed neighbours in Bangkok on December 6.
The neighbourly rapport got a significant boost when PM Modi made a surprising stop at Lahore on his way back to New Delhi from Kabul on Christmas Day on the occasion of his counterpart’s birthday.
However, the terror attack in Pathankot on January 2 strained relations between the two countries.
India said it sent “actionable evidence” to Pakistani authorities against those behind the attacks.
Pakistan filed an FIR in Gujranwala in February against unknown terrorists in connection with the airbase attack.
It then sent a joint investigation team (JIT) to India last month to probe the attack.
Basit held the press conference after the JIT’s departure.
In Thursday’s media briefing, Zakaria said that during PM Modi’s visit to Pakistan in December, it was decided that the two foreign secretaries should meet soon.
“It is hoped that both sides would work out modalities for the FS level talks. We need to look ahead and not think in terms foreclosing any options. Both sides are in contact with each other. Once the modalities are worked out secretary-level talks would take place,” he said.
Replying to a range of questions, Zakaria said, “At our level here in the ministry, we do not give a day-to-day running commentary on official policy.”
As to the visit of the JIT, he said that it was evaluating the information shared by the Indian side.
“It may be appropriate to allow the investigations to take its due course rather than indulge in speculations,” the spokesman said.
To a question about Kirpal Singh, an Indian prisoner who died in Pakistan on April 11 following what the authorities claimed was a heart attack, Mr Zakaria said that it was “not appropriate to see everything through the prism of suspicion and conspiracy”.
“He was kept in intensive care at the hospital but he could not survive. He was given death sentence and life imprisonment by anti-terrorism court,” he said.
“We have communicated this information to the Indian high commission in Islamabad,” he added.