A day after the mother and wife of retired Naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav met him in Islamabad in exceptional and controversial circumstances, the National Security Advisors (NSAs) of India and Pakistan met for talks in Bangkok. Sources told The Sunday Express that the December 26 meeting between Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Lt General Nasir Khan Janjua (retd) took place at a ‘neutral venue’ in the Thai capital.
The venue and date of the meeting were not linked to Pakistan’s treatment of Jadhav’s wife and mother. It had been decided between the two sides earlier this month, and it was, as sources described it, a “pre-scheduled meeting”.
Official Indian sources refused to comment on the subject.
Besides the offices of the NSA, sources indicated that the top hierarchy of the foreign ministries of the two countries was also in the loop about the meeting. As Pakistan’s NSA is a retired Lt General, Rawalpindi-based General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army was also kept informed of Tuesday’s meeting between the two NSAs.
On Thursday, Janjua met former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif at Sharif’s Jati Umra residence in Raiwind. As per Pakistan media reports, the meeting, which reportedly lasted five hours, included discussions on matters of national security, relations with Pakistan’s neighbouring countries and terrorism.
Dawn newspaper cited a PML-N leader quoting Sharif as saying at the meeting that “There is a dire need to improve ties with the neighbouring countries.” It also added that the former prime minister said he always talked about friendly relations with Pakistan’s neighbours because, without them, problems being faced by the people of the region could not be solved. “War is no solution to any problem,” he said.
The Bangkok meeting came in the wake of a sharp statement by the Pakistani NSA on India-Pakistan relations. On December 18, addressing a national security seminar in Islamabad, Janjua said, “The stability of the South Asian region hangs in a delicate balance, and the possibility of nuclear war cannot be ruled out.” He also stated that special efforts are needed to maintain balance in South Asia, which is “a mistake away” from a major catastrophe.
It was not the first meeting between the two NSAs in a third country. In December 2015, the two NSAs, along with the two foreign secretaries, had met, again in Bangkok, which was not revealed till after the meeting. That was followed, within days, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise stop-over in Lahore, to wish then-Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday on December 25.
Meetings in third countries afford the two officials some space, away from the limelight, which the continual gaze of media on both sides of the border entails. It also gets around the tricky issue of the Pakistan NSA meeting leaders of Kashmir’s Hurriyat Conference, something which had led to cancellation of his visit to New Delhi in August 2015.
Tuesday’s meeting in Bangkok, which is believed to have lasted more than two hours, was kept under wraps, but it is believed that the Indian NSA raised the issue of infiltration of militants into Kashmir from across the Line of Control (LoC) with active support from the Pakistan army. The LoC has been very active this year, with more than 820 ceasefire violations recorded so far. This has included use of indirect firing weapons and cross-LoC raids by Border Action Teams. The Indian Army has lost 31 soldiers on the LoC in 2017.
New Delhi has offered a ‘humanitarian pact’ to Pakistan, which allows the elderly and minor children who inadvertently cross the border to be quickly returned to their home country. Islamabad has not responded to the offer, which is believed to have been reiterated by Doval on Tuesday.
Pakistan’s handling of terrorists, with 26/11 terror attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed being freed from police custody and attempting to join mainstream politics, and Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi remaining out on bail, is also assumed to have figured in the conversation.
Janjua is believed to have raised the issue of unrest in Kashmir, besides alleged targeting of civilians in villages along the LoC in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).