NEW DELHI: Pakistan has been clearly told that it should allow an Indian probe team to visit that country in connection with Pathankot terror attack as reciprocity was the principle on which Pakistan's JIT was allowed to visit here, government told the Rajya Sabha today.
Minister of State for External Affairs Gen V K Singh also insisted that the meeting between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries here recently was "no formal talks".
Singh's response came after opposition members attacked the government over its handling of Pathankot issue and questioned whether NIA will be allowed to visit Pakistan since its JIT (Joint Investigation Team) already came here in connection with Pathankot terror attack probe.
The members also questioned whether India will be allowed access to interrogate Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar in connection with the terror attack.
"So far as we are concerned, our High Commissioner had conveyed formally to Pakistan Foreign Ministry that the terms of reference of the (JIT) visit are broadly agreed to with the proviso that they would be on the basis of reciprocity and followed in accordance with the extant legal provisions," the Minister said in his reply.
He insisted that this has been "very clearly conveyed" to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan.
Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, who met his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar here on Tuesday for a "courtesy" meeting, was also conveyed this, Singh said.
"It was conveyed to the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, when he unofficially on a courtesy visit, met our our Foreign Secretary here that they have to look into our NIA visiting Pakistan. He has to go back and take a formal view and convey to us," he said.
"...What appears in the newspapers, we are not concerned about it. So far as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan is concerned, it has not denied the reciprocity issue," he said.
Jaishankar and Chaudhry met here on Tuesday on the sidelines of a regional conference.
Questions were posed to the MoS for External Affairs by members in the House in the backdrop of a Pakistani media report which claimed that the JIT had told the government there that Pathankot attack was "staged" by India to malign Pakistan and that Indian authorities did not cooperate with the team.
Members also voiced concern over the reported statement by Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit that the investigation into the attack does not include reciprocity.
Acknowledging that the Pathankot attack has served to stress once again the centrality of India's concerns regarding cross-border terrorism in ties with Pakistan, the former Army Chief-turned-minister, however, defended the bilateral engagements saying it was for the first time in the history that country had showed a "cooperative attitude" after a terror attack.
Seeking to allay apprehensions on Pakistani team's probe regarding the Pathankot attack, Singh said the communication between the Pakistan's JIT and the country's NIA has happened in a "very professional manner" and their probe is identical.
He said that the JIT has been given the same evidence which the NIA has on the attack.
Deputy Leader of Congress Anand Sharma dismissed the written reply of the minister saying it "hides more than it reveals" and wanted to know what assurance was given by Pakistan to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that prompted him to suddenly visit that country to greet Nawaz Sharif on his birthday last year.
To questions on whether the issues like frequent ceasefire violations by Pakistan were discussed during the meeting of Foreign Secretaries, Singh said he wants to make it clear that "there has been no formal talks between our Foreign Secretary and his Pakistani counterpart."
Singh said Pakistan's Foreign Secretary had come here for the Heart of Asia Conference and met his Indian counterpart.
"Talks were held as per courtesy. These talks should not be considered formal talks," he said.
In the written reply, the MoS for External Affairs said the government is aware that after the return of Pakistan's JIT, a segment of Pakistani's media carried out "speculative" reports about the work of JIT in India.
He counter-pointed it with a press release issued by Pakistani Foreign Ministry later, which mentioned that "the visit of JIT to India had taken place in the context of the cooperartive approach being pursued by the government of Pakistan to effectively fight terrorism in all its forms."
To questions on what was discussed at UFA in Russia and what assurances were given by Pakistan, V K Singh said the centrality of terrorism emanating from Pakistan or from areas being controlled by Pakistan was stressed and it was the assurance given by the Prime Minister of Pakistan to his Indian counterpart that led to a number of decisions taken by India to improve relations with Pakistan.
He said he was quite aware that after terror attack at Pathankot, a considerable stress has been caused after the NSAs of the two countries had met.
Listing a number of measures taken by Modi government to improve ties with Pakistan, Singh said that both sides have engaged even in the aftermath of Pathankot terror attack including Prime Ministers of both countries talking to each other on few occassions and NSAs and Foreign Secretaries of both also remaining in touch.
"In the light of the decisions taken during the Ufa meeting of the two leaders, Pakistan has released and returned so far 335 Indian fishermen and 57 boats from its custody.
India has also released and repatriated all those Pakistani fishermen, whose nationality had been verified by Pakistani authorities," Singh said.