New Delhi: Is Pakistan looking to tone down frictions with India?

Sartaj Aziz, adviser on foreign affairs to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday, said the Pakistani government was presented with insufficient evidence against alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav, who was detained earlier this year.

The comment is seen as significant given that Yadav’s arrest in March vitiated bilateral ties, already at a low after the 2 January attack on an Indian airbase in Pathankot by Pakistan-based terrorists. It is being viewed by some quarters in New Delhi as a possible softening of stance by Pakistan in a bid to ease tensions that have soared in the recent past.

According to a report on the Geo TV website, Aziz told the Pakistani Senate—or upper House of Parliament—that the dossier on alleged Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) spy Yadav contained mere statements. India’s external spy agency is frequently accused by Pakistan of fomenting trouble in the country’s troubled province of Balochistan.

The report on Yadav did not have any conclusive evidence, Aziz was quoted as saying.

“What the dossier contained was not enough. Now, it is up to the concerned authorities how long they take to give us more matter on the agent," Aziz was quoted as saying.

Yadav was arrested during a raid in Balochistan in March. He was accused of being an RAW agent and his alleged confession to being one was aired widely in Pakistan.

According to news reports from Pakistan, Yadav allegedly admitted that he had been directing various activities in Karachi and Balochistan at the behest of RAW since 2013. He also allegedly confessed to have played a role in deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi.

India, on its part, admitted that Yadav was an Indian national and a former naval officer who could have been abducted from neighbouring Iran where he was said to operate a business.

New Delhi also expressed disapproval of Pakistan not granting consular access to the Indian national. The arrest and the verbal exchanges in its aftermath further vitiated ties between the two countries that were already reeling under the impact of the 2 January attack by Pakistan-based terrorists on an Indian airbase in Punjab. All four terrorists and three Indian security personnel were killed in the attack.

On Wednesday, however, government officials in New Delhi were looking into the report, which one of them said was highly unusual from Pakistan.

“It is impossible that Aziz could say this. If it is so, it could possibly be an olive branch to India. Or it could be a message to the ISI (Pakistan’s inter services intelligence to get its act together)," said a person aware of the development.

Aziz’s comments come amid a surge in tensions between India and Pakistan since July when Pakistan described a Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist killed by Indian troops in Kashmir as a “leader" and a “martyr."

A terrorist attack on an Indian army garrison in September that killed 19 soldiers frayed ties further, with India retaliating with “surgical strikes" against terrorist launchpads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. There have been multiple violations of the 2003 ceasefire since then, and tensions further rose after an attack on Tuesday by terrorists on an army garrison in Nagrota town in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, Aziz did visit India for a multilateral conference on Afghanistan on 3-4 December, fuelling speculation of a thaw in ties.

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