In a development that sets up the government for fierce attacks by opposition parties, Pakistan today all but ruled out a return visit by Indian investigators days after its officials toured the Pathankot air base to inquire into the January terror attack.
“The visit of the Pakistani probe team to Pathankot is not about reciprocity,” Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, told reporters.
He also said for the first time that “peace process with India has been suspended”.
The comments are set to take India-Pakistan ties to sub-zero levels amid a war of words over the Pathankot terror attack, which India blames on terrorist Masood Azhar, the chief of the Jaish e-Mohammed, based in Pakistan.
A move to designate Azhar a terrorist was recently blocked at the UN by China. Mr Basit said he “subscribed” to that 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.
“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: “The JIT visited the crime scene and also recorded the statements of some witnesses. However, the witnesses belonging to the Indian security forces were not produced before it.”
Not long after the return of the Pakistani team, which included a member of its all-powerful Inter-services Intelligence 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 stressed that all sensitive areas had been cordoned off. India’s fighter jets and helicopters are among the high-value assets at the 1200-acre complex.