The possibility that Pakistani officers were involved in the attack on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan changes the equation vis-à-vis India attending the foreign secretary-level meeting on Friday. Not a little, but drastically.
It is now a whole new ball game changing a bilateral hostility into a multi-lateral one.
The report based on eyewitness accounts from Afghan military that they saw it with their own eyes might have a grammatical redundancy but it still is a stark indictment seeing that it occurred much after the attack in Pathankot. And there was a fatality.
It puts all the previous scenarios and theories to nought and brings up the question of what exactly is going on and how deep is in the ISI paw in the cookie jar?
If the evidence to back this statement is forthcoming, India has to rethink its whole strategy.
If Pakistani military advisors or boots-on-the-ground are executing attacks on Indian diplomatic territory in third countries then the option of India finding no reason to distrust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's overtures of moving against the perpetrators is entirely invalidated.
The Pakistani prime minister who must have been feeling pretty chuffed about pushing New Delhi into a corner with his ‘cooperative’ approach and concessions in moving against the masterminds, or at least the foot-soldiers, must have been shaken by the badly-timed confessions of the Afghan eyewitnesses.
This sort of rocks his boat and capsizes the credibility he has tried to build in the last three days.
If they are orchestrating anti-India violence in Afghanistan, then all these stabs at cooperating with India and taking concerted action are a bit of a charade.
The prism then shifts to another pattern and not one that New Delhi or Prime Minister Narendra Modi can take lightly or dismiss as mutually exclusive from the attack in Pathankot.
Before Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar packs his diplomatic passport, it is incumbent on the government to get a full report on the Afghan fallout and factor it into the current equations. It makes sense to postpone the talks until the winter fog lifts on the integrity of Sharif's promise to do something about his nest of vipers. Even if India concedes to his display of sincerity, the fresh evidence from the Afghans is truly damning and must not be set aside.
Getting to the negotiating table without clarity on this new dimension would be conceding too much space and that is unwarranted.
Delay will not be harmful for the now.
If these officers were choreographing hostility in Afghanistan, it has to be seen well within the realm of probability that their colleagues were all involved in the Pathankot assault. India just cannot afford to separate the two acts of violence against sovereign territory occurring in the same timeframe.
Time to hold back a bit and give things a little breathing space before getting to a meeting.
Updated Date: Jan 13, 2016 11:45 AM