Islamabad/NEW DELHI - Pakistan and India have agreed to reschedule foreign-secretary level talks which were earlier proposed by Pakistan for January 15.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah in a statement issued Thursday evening said the new dates would be worked out by Islamabad and New Delhi. Earlier in the day, he during the weekly press briefing said the two states were in touch to work out the final dates of the talks.

There had been fears that Pathankot airbase attack in India could derail the bilateral talks but Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said talks would take place in the “very near future”.

“The foreign secretary spoke to his Pakistani counterpart today and will set a date for the talks in the near future,” he said at a media briefing in New Delhi.

Asked whose ball the court was now in, he replied in Hindi, “when the husband and wife are willing, who is the priest to interfere”, indicating the talks would go ahead.

The two neighbours agreed last month on the sidelines of Heart of Asia conference to resume stalled peace talks under new title ‘Comprehensive Dialogue Process’ to discuss a number of bilateral issues including Kashmir and terrorism. They decided to hold Foreign Secretary (FS) level meeting in Islamabad on January 15 to work out agenda of talks for initial six months.

However, a terrorist attack at India’s Pathnkot airbase delayed the dialogue process when New Delhi alleged that perpetrators of the attack had links in Pakistan and shared initial information with Islamabad to probe the matter. Islamabad after initial investigation arrested several suspects besides taking into protective custody three persons including Jaish-e-Mohammad leader ‘Maulana’ Masood Azhar.

This development followed intense diplomatic contacts between Islamabad and New Delhi and both sides agreed to reschedule foreign secretary talks on Thursday.

“Since terrorism is a common problem both India and Pakistan require joint coordinated efforts to eliminate terrorism from the region”, Pakistani Spokesperson Khalilullah said.

Indian spokesman welcomed the arrests and said India would work with a team of investigators Pakistan is sending to Pathankot, near the border between the two countries. He said India viewed the crackdown on the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group in Pakistan as an “important and positive first step”.

“We have noted that the Pakistan government is considering sending a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the Pathankot attack,” Swarup said. “We look forward to the visit of the SIT. Our investigative agencies will extend all cooperation to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.”

After the terror attack on January 2, there have been doubts whether FS-level talks could take place as planned with India linking “prompt and decisive” action by Pakistan to the talks.

Last night, Spokesman Vikas Swarup had said India had not received any confirmation on media reports of the detention of Azhar, who is believed to be the mastermind of the Pathankot attack.

In Islamabad, Foreign Office spokesperson said that he was not aware of the arrest of Masood Azhar. “I am not aware of any such arrest. I don’t have anything else apart from the statement issued by the PMO (PM Office) yesterday,” Qazi Khalilullah added.

The Pathankot attack took place a week after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a stopover in Lahore to wish Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday and attend the latter’s granddaughter’s wedding at Jati Umra.

Prime Minister Nawaz had later assured Modi that Islamabad would not hesitate to take “prompt and decisive action” if the involvement of Pakistan-based elements in the attack on the Indian airbase was proved beyond doubt.

Azhar was arrested in India in February 1994. But India was forced to release him and two others — Mushtaq Zargar and Umar Sheikh — in Dec 1999 in exchange for passengers and crews of an Indian flight that was hijacked by militants linked to Harkatul Mujahideen from Kathmandu (in Nepal) and forced to land in Kandahar (in Afghanistan). After his return to Pakistan, Azhar split with Harkatul Mujahideen in year 2000 and formed his own militant outfit Jaish-i-Mohammad.