In a sign of how difficult this conflict is for both sides, Pakistan’s army and the Pakistani Taliban are now in talks to form a united front against Indian forces, a senior Indian official said Sunday.
The talks have been ongoing since late last month, when the Indian army attacked Pakistan’s heavily fortified border with the tribal-held tribal areas of Kashmir, killing more than a dozen people, including a top commander of the Pakistani-led armed group, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), according to Indian officials.
The Pakistani military has denied any involvement in the killings.
A senior Indian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly, told The Associated Press that talks between the Pakistani army and TTP had been going on for a year.
Indian officials have said the talks have reached a “point of no return,” meaning that the TTP’s leadership has either quit or was expelled from the Pakistani military, which would put the TFP on a collision course with the military.
India is the main security partner for Pakistan and has a special relationship with the Pakistani state.
The military has been angered by a series of Indian attacks on Pakistani forces that have killed more than 200 people, most of them civilians, in the last year.
India has also become increasingly alarmed about the growing strength of the TPT, which it considers a threat to its security.
Pakistan has accused India of using terror groups to destabilize its volatile region, and the two countries are also in talks over the fate of their longtime neighbor, Afghanistan, which has been embroiled in a war with the Taliban for years.
Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, on Sunday called the talks with the TTF “a serious step” in trying to resolve the standoff, according to a statement by his office.
Pakistan and India share a long border that has been a source of tension and has led to thousands of people killed in recent years, but there have been signs of improvement in recent months.
India’s border with Afghanistan, where the TTO was born in 2002, was briefly sealed off in April, though a formal closure is not expected until 2019.
India said in its statement that it is working to maintain a stable and secure environment for its citizens, especially those who live on the porous border, but stressed that the border remains a top security concern.
India says it will not accept a “one-sided” ceasefire, which is what the TTS wants, and wants the TSF to work with both sides to achieve an agreement that can be implemented on the ground.
India also said it would allow humanitarian access for TTF members in Pakistan and Afghanistan.