India, Pakistan should engage in direct dialogue: US
Washington/New Delhi: On a day when Islamabad announced suspension of the bilateral peace process with New Delhi, the United States has asked both India and Pakistan to engage in ‘direct dialogue’ aimed at reducing tensions.
"Our longstanding position is that we believe India and Pakistan stand to benefit from the normalisation of relations and practical cooperation. We encourage India and Pakistan to engage in direct dialogue aimed at reducing tensions," a State Department spokesman said.
"The United States strongly supports all efforts between India and Pakistan that can contribute to a more stable, democratic, and prosperous region, but this is an issue that must be determined by the two sides," the spokesman added.
The spokesman was responding to a question on the remarks of Pakistan's Ambassador to India Abdul Basit in New Delhi wherein he had said that bilateral talks between the two neighbouring side were ‘suspended’ and that there was no question of allowing an NIA team to visit Islamabad for the Pathankot probe.
However, the Ministry of External Affairs cited the Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson saying that both sides were in contact with each other over Foreign Secretary-level talks and that the visit the NIA to Pakistan was on the Pakistan was on the basis of reciprocity, previously agreed upon.
Asked at the Foreign Correspondents Club here about a meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two countries, Basit said, "There is no meeting scheduled for now. I think at present the peace process is suspended. India is not ready as yet."
"We can only resolve issues through dialogue," he added quickly.
Basit also ruled out a reciprocal visit by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to Pakistan to probe the Pathankot attack. "The investigation (into the Pathankot attack) is not about reciprocity," he said.
MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup in his statement latest cited the Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Islamabad as saying that both sides were ‘in contact with each other’ over the foreign secretary level talks.
The Pakistani spokesperson said: "...It has been reiterated from both sides that modalities are being worked out. I will again state that negotiations are the best means to resolve the issues." He added that Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar too had indicated in a recent statement that talks would take place.
The announcement comes nearly three and half months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Lahore on December 25 on an unannounced trip to attend the wedding of the granddaughter of his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
Modi's trip had raised hopes about the resumption of peace talks between the rival neighbours.
Basit's statement appears to be the first official word from Pakistan about the latest breakdown in the now-on-now-off peace process with India.
The meeting between the India and Pakistan foreign secretaries was earlier scheduled for January 15. But it was stalled after a group of suspected Pakistani terrorists attacked the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, killing at least seven security personnel.
After a team of Pakistani investigators visited Pathankot to probe Indian charges that Pakistani terrorists were to blame for the January 2 attack, New Delhi had expected Islamabad to allow the NIA to visit that country to take the investigation forward.