As South Block sensed Thursday evening that the Pulwama terrorist attack was turning out to be the single bloodiest attack in Jammu and Kashmir, Joint Secretaries in charge of 17 territorial divisions in the Ministry of External Affairs, from Americas division to the Gulf, West European to South Asian neighbours, all started working their phones.
Setting into motion a “coercive diplomacy” similar to what India has done in the past, after the Uri attack in 2016 and the Mumbai terror attack in 2008, but unprecedented in scale.
At 7.42 pm, the first tweet came from US Ambassador Kenneth Juster, who said that the US Mission in India “strongly condemns” the terrorist attack in Jammu & Kashmir. Expressing condolences, he wrote, “The United States stands alongside India in confronting terror and defeating it.” and signed off with hashtag KashmirTerrorAttack.
Officials worked through the night and Ambassadors were asked to either issue statements or ask their foreign ministries — if they were awake and available — to do so.
“Our missions overseas were also told to knock on the doors of the Foreign Ministries and apprise them of the attack and its significance,” a top official said.
By late night, all P-5 countries, except China, and all South Asian neighbours, and major strategic partners had issued statements.
The big gains were condemnations from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran, all major partners of Pakistan, and who routinely support Islamabad on the Kashmir issue, especially during the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation declarations each year.
This morning, as the Cabinet Committee on Security decided that MEA would play the lead role in launching the diplomatic offensive, the groundwork had been done overnight.
To start with, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale summoned Pak High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood at 2 pm to his office and issued a “very strong demarche”, sources said. This was their second meeting this month after Pakistan Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had called up Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.
Gokhale told Mahmood that Pakistan must take “immediate and verifiable action” against the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and that it must “immediately stop any groups or individuals associated with terrorism operating from its territories”, sources said.
During the meeting, the Foreign Secretary also dismissed the statement made by the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan yesterday. That had rejected “any insinuation” by elements in the Indian government and media seeking to link the attack to the state of Pakistan without investigations.
By evening, Gokhale called envoys of P-5 countries, US, UK, China, Russia and France, and majority of G-20 countries, and the South Asian neighbours for meetings in batches. A total of about 25 countries were briefed through their envoys in Delhi on Friday evening.
Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria has been called to Delhi for consultations.
Sources said that meetings with envoys from the US, Russia and China took place on one-on-one basis with Gokhale while others were grouped in batches as “like-minded countries”.
“All the envoys were left in no doubt about the role played by Pakistan-based and supported Jaish and our demand that Pakistan ceases forthwith all support and financing to terror groups operating from areas under its control,” an official said.
After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, the Manmohan Singh government had also briefed envoys from major countries and had given them dossiers about Pakistan’s involvement.
A source said, “There is no dossier this time yet, since the attack is self-professed, and the JeM has claimed responsibility.”
Sources said the coercive diplomacy will be at work over the weekend and in the coming days as well. Secretary (east) Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary (west) A Gitesh Kumar and Secretary (economic relations) T S Tirumurti in the MEA will continue meeting with Ambassadors.
“Diplomatic isolation cannot happen overnight. It is a process, and the process has begun,” the source said. India will also press with the international community to ensure the early adoption at the UN of the “Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.”
As a pushback, Pak Foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua has also started briefing P-5 envoys about the terrorist attack and what Pak calls the “insinuation” by Delhi.