NIA DG's comments on Pak-Pathankot create controversy
NIA DG Sharad Kumar stated that there was no evidence to prove that the Pakistani government was aiding militants involved in the Pathankot attack. The statement has created controversy in the government after the MEA rejected it saying there was no question about Pakistan's complicity. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government has welcomed the statements as a vindication of their stance on the issue.
The Pathankot Air Force base was attacked by a group of six terrorists who entered posing as security personnel. The attack continued for three days resulting in the death of 7 Indian security personnel as well as of all 6 terrorists involved. Indian officials suspected the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad of carrying out the attacks at the strategic air base.
The 2000 acre Pathankot Air Base, located 50 km from the Pakistan border, is the primary base for the MIG-21 Bison fighters and the MI-25 and MI-35 attack helicopters. The base serves as the first line of attack for the Indian Air Force and provides logistic support to operations in Jammu and Kashmir. Sources state the terrorists were instructed to "blow up" the MI-35s.
The terrorists, dressed in army fatigues had assaulted the SP of Gurdaspur, Salwinder Singh, and carjacked his SUV to reach the air base. The terrorists were heavily armed and carried enough food and ammunition to last for few days. The air base has a perimeter of 24km and is surrounded by tall grasses which can provide shelter to the terrorists and makes security challenging.
Tha National Investigation Agency (NIA), which was investigating the attacks had found the hand of Pakistan-based terror organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed behind the attacks. India handed over the evidence to Pakistan so that Islamabad could take action against those involved in the attack. The foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for 15th January were also postponed till Pakistan took concrete action against JeM.
Pakistan arrested several terrorists linked to JeM but did not arrest JeM Chief, Maulana Masood Azhar as Pakistan's Special Investigation Team (SIT) could not find evidence against him. Pakistan also filed FIR against unknown persons, a move which Indian officials regard an acknowledgement of attack being planned from Pakistan. It offered to send a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to India to investigate the attack.
A Pakistani JIT arrived in India to survey the Pathankot airbase and meet NIA officials. The five-member Pakistani team including ISI and Military Intelligence officials was led by Chief of (Pakistan) Punjab Counter Terrorism Department, Muhammad Tahir Rai. After much of confusion, the JIT was finally taken to the Pathankot airbase; however, precautions were taken to cover strategic assets of the airbase.
The Pakistani JIT concluded its 6-day long probe in the Pathankot terror attack. Aftertheir investigation, the Pakistani team stated that the attack was 'stage managed' by India. In addition, Pakistan refused to allow the Indian NIA team to visit Pakistan to investigate further. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar insisted that the Pakistani team was allowed only on the basis of reciprocity.
The Interpol issued a fresh Red Corner notice against JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf for their alleged involvement in the attack on India's Pathankot Air Force Base. Interpol may also issue a Red Corner notice against Shahid Latif, a suspected handler of the JeM. The move signals considerable progress in bringing the perpetrators of the attack to justice.
India is awaiting Pakistan's response over the NIA team's visit to further investigate the Pathankot attack. Indian security officials said that "we are ascertaining Pakistan's response. Details will be worked out subsequently." Pakistan's Prime Minister's Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz had earlier stated that Pakistan was considering India's request for a NIA team visit. However, Pakistani officials are yet to officially confirm.
The US stated that it provided 'substantial assistance' to India in the Pathankot terror attack investigation. The statements were made by the US Embassy in New Delhi, which also said that officials from the US Department of Justice and the FBI would conduct workshops with their Indian counterparts over the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. The statements are indicative of growing Indo-US defence ties