With the terror attack in Pathankot still unfolding, both India and Pakistan on Saturday afternoon issued statements that seemed intended to prevent the escalation of rhetoric.
Pakistan condemned the attack, offering “heartfelt condolences”, and saying it was committed to “partner with India” to eliminate terrorism in the South Asian region. India, despite strong indications that the attack was carried out by the Jaish-e-Muhammad, reacted cautiously, the Ministry of External Affairs saying — several hours into the attack — that it was still too early to comment.
“On #PathankotAttack: Operations continuing, immediate focus on resolving situation — premature to say anything more at this point,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swaroop tweeted.
In Islamabad, the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement: “Pakistan condemns the terrorist incident in Pathankot, India, today, in which many precious lives have been lost.
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“We extend heartfelt condolences to the government and people of India and the bereaved families and wish the wounded speedy and full recovery.
“Building on the goodwill created during the recent high-level contacts between the two countries, Pakistan remains committed to partner with India as well as other countries in the region to completely eradicate the menace of terrorism afflicting our region.”
Saturday’s attack came a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s impromptu Christmas Day visit to Lahore. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had travelled to Pakistan on December 8, two days after the off-camera meeting between National Security Advisors Ajit Doval and Lt Gen (retd) Naseer Khan Janjua in Bangkok. On November 30, Modi had met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the Climate Summit in Paris.
Speaking in Mysuru on Saturday, Modi said “enemies of humanity” had attacked India, and lauded the security forces who “did not let them succeed”.
“Today, enemies of humanity who can’t see India progress tried to strike at our strategic area, a prominent airbase at Pathankot. I appreciate our armed forces and thank them for foiling our enemy’s attempt,” the Prime Minister said, adding, “our security forces did not let them succeed”.
Foreign Secretary level talks between the two countries are due to begin on January 15. The Pathankot attack would not derail those talks, the government said on Saturday.
“This process (talks) cannot be destroyed due to one attack… Pakistan is our neighbour. You cannot change your neighbour, you can change friends, and therefore, we must continue with the talks, but talks have to be mainly on the issue of terrorism and that’s what exactly India is doing… Unless you talk terror, terror will not come down,” Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that while India wanted peace with Pakistan, it would give a “befitting reply” to terrorist attacks.
“Army jawans, NSG and the Punjab Police are giving a befitting reply to the attack… Pakistan is our neighbour and we want good relations not only with Pakistan, but all our neighbours. We also want peace, but if there is any sort of terrorist attack on India, we will give a befitting reply,” Singh said.
He said it was possible that the attack had been carried out by the Jaish. “The case will be probed by the NIA but the possibility of JeM being behind the attack cannot be ruled out,” Singh said.
The Congress voiced serious concern over the attack. “It’s indeed a very serious matter as seven days after PM Modi visited Pakistan to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif, a terrorist module comes from Pakistan and attacks in Punjab and attacks our frontline security installation, AICC communication department chief Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
“Two things are very clear,” Surjewala said. “First, despite the PM’s visit to Pakistan, ISI continues to sustain and support terror activities against India… Secondly, the terror camps that are run by terrorists for carrying on anti-India activity in PoK continues to be supported by Pakistani establishments…”