Pak army, ISI want to be involved in talks with India

Pak army, ISI want to be involved in talks with India

ISI chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, a trusted aide of powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has been involved in the move and reportedly brought up the matter during a meeting with the three defence advisers in the Indian High Commission earlier this month, the sources said.

Pasha suggested to the defence advisors representing India's army, navy and air forces during the meeting held on July 3 that the ISI and the Pakistan Army should find a place in bilateral talks as they played a key role in helping the foreign ministry formulate its policies, diplomatic and other sources said.

Over the past few weeks, members of the Pakistani security establishment have privately sounded out Pakistani journalists about the need for the ISI and the army to have a role in talks with India.

The journalists were told that talks with India would be more meaningful if New Delhi was in "direct contact" with the ISI and the army as they were the real "power centres" in Pakistan.

Officials of the Indian High Commission refused to comment on the development. The Pakistan Army spokesman too could not be reached for a reaction.

However, sources said there was a problem of "disconnect" in the proposal mooted by the Pakistani establishment.

"In India, the intelligence agencies and the army only act in an advisory capacity by briefing the External Affairs Ministry and other departments for talks with Pakistan. They do not make decisions and they have no direct role in the dialogue unless the talks are on security-related issues like Siachen or Sir Creek," a senior official, who did not want to be named, said.

"On the Pakistani side, it is a totally different ballgame as the military and ISI are very much a part of decision-making and policy formulation," he said.

Besides, sources pointed out that no formal proposal had been made by Islamabad about involving the army or the ISI in the talks.

Significance is also being attached to Pasha's decision to have a separate meeting with the three Indian defence advisors.

Though the three Indian military attaches often run into ISI and Pakistan Army officials at formal functions hosted by the large fraternity of defence advisors based in Islamabad, it is rare for the ISI chief or senior Pakistan Army officials to have direct interactions with them.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani agreed on November 28 last year to send the ISI chief to India in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks but backtracked hours later following a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari and Gen Kayani.

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