New Delhi: The dastardly attack on the Indian Air Force Base at Pathankot on Saturday is likely to jeopardise the forthcoming high-level talks between India and Pakistan amid indications that the Indian government is likely to focus on tackling incidents of terror as of now while also continuing its engagement with Islamabad at the same time.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who had consulted veteran diplomats for the dialogue with Pakistan after the Pathankot attack, has been told that India should press Pakistan to act tough against terror before resuming talks with New Delhi.
Swaraj had yesterday met two former foreign secretaries and five former envoys to Pakistan as the government sought wider consultation over its policy towards Pakistan in the wake of the terror attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot that claimed 13 lives, including those of seven Indian security personnel.
Swaraj met Shiv Shankar Menon, former foreign secretary and national security adviser; Shyam Saran, former foreign secretary; Satinder Lambah, former envoy to Pakistan and former special envoy to the prime minister who conducted back channel talks with Pakistan; and four former envoys to Pakistan, T.C.A. Raghavan, Sharad Sabharwal, Satyabrata Pal and G. Parthasarathy.
India has long maintained terror originating from across the border should stop for the peace talks to deliver, however, some experts say the best response to such incidents would be to continue the peace process that has just begun.
However, the recently resumed dialogue process, and the surprise visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Pakistan on his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif's birthday, appeared to write new chapters in the annals of bilateral diplomacy.
The attack at the frontline Indian Air Force (IAF) base in northern Punjab, around 30 km from the international border, coming within days of Modi's maiden visit to Pakistan, might have made a dent, but the balanced response from both the countries have raised hopes.
The five terrorists who staged the attack were killed in a gunbattle that lasted for 15 hours.
Pakistan immediately condemned the attack and expressed its commitment to partner with India to eradicate terrorism.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while stating that terror will be given a "befitting reply", added that India wants peace.
Former Indian Army chief, General VP Malik, described the attack as "minor" and said it was unlikely to disrupt the dialogue process.
He also said that following Prime Minister Modi's visit to Lahore, the stakes are high as the blame or credit will go completely to him.
"We must look at the prime minister's visit as a strategic engagement; with one engagement everything cannot fall in place," General Malik said, adding, "The second thing is that this particular event is a minor one; so its impact on the dialogue process will not be much."
The former army chief also said that the attack could not have been planned following Modi's Pakistan visit.
"Such attacks are planned months in advance..." he said.
Meanwhile, the Indian government is likely to raise the issue of the Pathankot terror attack with the Pakistani government on Monday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday chaired a high-level meeting with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Jai Shankar and other top officials to take stock of the Pathankot attack.