New Delhi: India on Thursday confirmed that its national security adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval met his Pakistani counterpart Nasser Khan Janjua in Thailand last month.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that the engagement was not contrary to India’s stated position that talks with Pakistan could not continue as long as Islamabad supported anti-India terrorist groups.
“India and Pakistan have a dialogue process and we have said terror and talks cannot go together. However, there are other dialogue mechanisms like at the DGMO (Directors General of Military Operations) level or between the BSF (Border Security Force) and Pakistan Rangers," Kumar told reporters in New Delhi on Thursday.
“Similarly, the NSA-level engagement is part of operational-level talks. We have said terror and talks cannot go together, but talks on terror can definitely go ahead," Kumar said. This engagement was not the resumption of talks, he clarified.
The confirmation of the NSA-level engagement comes almost two weeks after news reports said the two NSAs had met in Thailand.
India and Pakistan have not held official level talks since 2013.
Efforts to revive the official dialogue process took place immediately after the Narendra Modi government came to office in 2014. Modi invited the heads of government of all South Asian countries for his inauguration on 26 May 2014, including then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Efforts to get the talks on track failed in 2014 after Pakistan insisted that its then foreign minister Sartaj Aziz would meet the leaders of the Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat Conference in New Delhi prior to holding talks with Indian officials.
In 2015, Modi tried to re-engage Pakistan by sending foreign secretary S. Jaishankar on a visit to all South Asian capitals including Islamabad. Modi met Sharif in the Russia city of Ufa on the sidelines of a regional meet and later on the sidelines of the UN conference on climate change in Paris. This was followed by a visit to Pakistan by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj for a conference on Afghanistan in December 2015.
Modi also visited Pakistan in a surprise stopover on 25 December, 2015, on his way back from Russia and Afghanistan. This was the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Pakistan in a decade. During Modi’s Pakistan visit, it was decided that the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan would meet in January 2016 and decide on a calendar for re-engagement.
But a terrorist attack on India’s Pathankot air force station in January—days after Modi’s visit and before the foreign secretary talks—put paid to that effort. Pakistan’s arrest of an alleged Indian spy on changes on charges of inciting violence in Baluchistan and more terrorist attacks on military installations ensured that the talks remained suspended in 2016.
Last year too, there was no movement on India-Pakistan talks though in December, The Indian Express reported that Doval had met his counterpart in Thailand.