Pakistan’s envoy Abdul Basit today said for the first time that the “peace process with India has been suspended”.
After dropping the bombshell, High Commissioner Basit also all but ruled out a return visit by Indian investigators days after Pakistani officials toured the Pathankote air base to inquire into the January terror attack.
“The visit of the Pakistani probe team to Pathankote is not about reciprocity,” Abdul Basit said in comments that leave the Modi government wide open to attack by opposition parties that have strongly criticized the Pakistani team’s visit.
The comments are also set to take India-Pakistan ties to sub-zero levels amid a war of words over the Pathankote terror attack, which India blames on terrorist Masood Azhar, the chief of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed. A move to designate Azhar a terrorist was recently blocked at the UN by China.
Basit said he “subscribed” to the Chinese viewpoint. India has repeatedly said that a five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) from Pakistan was allowed to come and visit the Pathankot air base – where seven military personnel were killed – on the understanding that the National Investigation Agency would also be allowed to go to Pakistan to collect evidence. “The terms of reference of the JIT were agreed upon by both sides,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
Last night, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said “witnesses belonging to the Indian security forces were not produced before the JIT.” Not long after the return of the Pakistani team – which included a member of its all-powerful Inter-services Intelligence or ISI – a media report from Pakistan said the officials would declare that the terror attack at the base was “a drama” staged by India “to malign Pakistan”.
New Delhi said it “will go by what is officially conveyed by Pakistan and action on the ground.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi was pummeled by the opposition for permitting the Pakistanis into the Pathankot base, though defence ministry officials asserted that all sensitive areas had been cordoned off.