PATHANKOT ATTACK

Pak action to 'give' Modi political cover against oppn flak

PAKISTAN (File) Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar (L) | Reuters
  • The conditions that India has put forward to make the Friday talks happen include visible action against Jaish leaders. The detention of Masood Azhar seems to have exceeded expectations.

The rapidly refreezing diplomatic thaw between the nuclear-armed India and Pakistan post the Pathankot air base attack has witnessed a pause, and possibly a reversal, with Pakistan arresting or detaining several leaders of Jaish-e-Mohammed, including its chief Maulana Masood Azhar.

Reports say the detention of Azhar, which is yet to verified by India, has given Narendra Modi a foothold to defend himself against criticism that his Lahore diplomacy was a mistake and went against his earlier stance on terrorism.

Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore on his way back from Afghanistan in December last year on an impromptu invitation extended by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, when Modi called him to wish him on his birthday.

Back home, several quarters hailed his 'personal diplomacy' cutting through official channels as a success and attributed it to the the improved relations with Pakistan.

However, the Pathankot terror attack shortly after the 'Lahore diplomacy' has pushed Modi into the defensive, with the Opposition badgering him on the way he engaged Pakistan, stressing his own line back to him that terror and talks cannot go hand in hand.

However, the arrest of Jaish leaders has changed all that. Maulana Masood Azhar, who was blamed for the 2001 Parliament attack, was detained on January 12, along with his brother and brother-in-law and will remain in protective custody for at least 30 days, according to Reuters.

Pakistan said earlier in the day that it had arrested several members of Azhar's group and sealed off its offices as it investigates Indian assertions that the January 2 attack, in which seven military personnel were killed, was the work of the Pakistan-based militants.

The conditions that India has put forward to make the foreign secretary-level talks, scheduled to be held on January 15, happen include visible action against Jaish leaders. The detention of Masood Azhar, reports say, seems to have exceeded India's expectations.

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