On Wednesday the US asked Pakistan to take “meaningful action” against terrorist groups operating on its soil and urged both Islamabad and New Delhi to “exercise restraint and avoid escalation at any cost”, a day after India’s airstrike on Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp in Balakot.
Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state called the foreign ministers of both India and Pakistan separately after the Indian Air Force destroyed the Jaish camp in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80-km from the Line of Control (LoC) early Tuesday, killing 325 militants and terror recruits.
India’s action came after 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers were killed in a suicide attack by an operative of Pakistan-based Jaish in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14, sparking outrage in the country.
“Following Indian counter-terrorism actions on February 26, I spoke with Indian Minister of External Affairs Swaraj to emphasize our close security partnership and shared goal of maintaining peace and security in the region,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“I also spoke to Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi to underscore the priority of de-escalating current tensions by avoiding military action, and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil,” Pompeo said.
“I expressed to both Ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost. I also encouraged both ministers to prioritise direct communication and avoid further military activity,” he said.
Pompeo is currently in Vietnam to attend the second summit between US president Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Last week, US national security adviser John Bolton told his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval that America supports India’s right to self-defence as both sides vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan ceases to be a safe haven for JeM and other terror groups.
Sushma Swaraj, who is in China for a meeting with the foreign ministers of Russia and China, defended her country’s action on Wednesday and said the limited objective of the pre-emptive strike in Balakot was to act decisively against the terrorist infrastructure of the Jaish-e-Mohammed in order to pre-empt another terrorist attack in India.
“In the light of the continued refusal of Pakistan to acknowledge and act against terror groups on its territory and based on credible information that JeM is planning other attacks in various parts of India, Government of India has decided to take pre-emptive action,” Swaraj said.
“The target was selected in order to avoid civilian casualties. Excellences, this was not a military operation. No military installations were targeted,” she added.
Swaraj was making her opening remarks during the 16th Russia, India and China (RIC) foreign ministers’ forum being held in Wuzhen, a picturesque water town in eastern China’s Zhejiang province.
“India does not wish to see a further escalation of the situation and India will continue to act with responsibility and restraint,” she said.
She earlier told her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that the worst attack on its soldiers in Kashmir’s Pulwama district earlier this month was carried out by Jaish under the cover and impunity given it to by Pakistan.
The tension between India and Pakistan has escalated in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack. India blamed Pakistan for the continued terror attacks in India but Islamabad denied having any hand behind the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir.