What Did India and Pakistan’s NSAs Talk About?

The daily ceremony at the Wagah border dividing India and Pakistan. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Ministry of External Affairs acknowledged on Thursday that national security advisor Ajit Doval had in fact met his Pakistani counterpart  last month.

On December 31, Sushant Singh of The Indian Express had reported that the two NSAs had met at a ‘neutral venue’ in Bangkok on December 26.

The discussions between the NSAs took place a day after Pakistani authorities organised a meeting in Islamabad between Kulbhushan Jadhav, the retired Indian naval officer Pakistan has held for alleged spying, and his family. However, the two meetings appear to have little or nothing to with each other.

‘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,’ Singh reported.

What is less clear is what Doval and Janjua talked about during their meeting, which lasted more than two hours.

When asked on Thursday, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar indicated the discussions centred on terrorism.

‘Talks were held on how to rid this region of the scourge of terrorism, how to ensure that terrorism doesn’t affect this region. I think we raised the issue of cross-border terrorism (with Pakistan) in those talks,’ Kumar said.

‘We have said terror and talks cannot go together but talks on terror can definitely go ahead, he added.

In a similar vein, according to Singh’s story, ‘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.’

Despite the apparent emphasis on terrorism, the December 26 meeting was probably more wide ranging.

At a seminar on December 18, Janjua warned that the ‘stability of the South Asian region hangs in a delicate balance, and the possibility of nuclear war cannot be ruled out.’

Two days after his meeting with Doval, Janjua reportedly briefed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, discussing ‘matters of national security, relations with Pakistan’s neighbouring countries and terrorism,’ according to Singh’s story.

Doval and Janjua have also met in this manner before. Soon after the last such meeting between the two NSAs in Bangkok in December 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore ostensibly to greet Sharif on his birthday.

But the promise of Modi’s stopover in Lahore evaporated days later, with the attack on the Pathankot air force station in Punjab by Pakistani terrorists.

However, Doval and Janjua appear to have remained in touch. Earlier this year, the two men reportedly spoke more than once, discussing evidence related to the Pathankot attack.

Notwithstanding their public postures, both sides are likely to continue talking to each other discreetly.

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