The United States Wednesday urged India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and avoid military action as tension escalated between the neighbours after India launched a “pre-emptive non-military strike” at a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp on Pakistani soil Tuesday.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “Following Indian counter-terrorism actions on February 26, I spoke with Indian Minister of External Affairs (Sushma) Swaraj to emphasise our close security partnership and shared goal of maintaining peace and security in the region. I also spoke to Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood 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.”
He also said that the US encouraged both sides to prioritise direct communication and avoid further military activity.
On Tuesday, India Air Force had struck the “biggest training camp” of the Jaish-e-Mohammad in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in which “a very large number” of JeM terrorists and their trainers were “eliminated”. This was the first time after the 1971 war that the Indian Air Force has hit targets in the country.
Hours after the strikes, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke to her counterparts in the US, China, Singapore, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and briefed them on the pre-dawn strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror training camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, sources said.
Swaraj then left for Wuzhen in China for the Russia-India-China-trilateral meeting where she will meet Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday.
In a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Swaraj explained the reasons behind the strike and conveyed that the action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp. She also spoke to Wang Yi and apprised him on the “non-military, pre-emptive air strikes,” sources said.
While countries like France and Australia came out with statements supporting India’s action, China’s response was muted. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, responding to a question on the “non-military” strike, said, “Fighting terrorism is a global practice and needs necessary cooperation.” “India and Pakistan are both important countries in South Asia. Sound relations and cooperation serve the interest of both countries for peace and stability in South Asia… we hope the two countries can keep restraint and do more to improve bilateral relations,” Lu said.
In Canberra, the Australian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said: “Pakistan must take urgent and meaningful action against terrorist groups in its territory, including Jaish-e-Mohammed which has claimed responsibility for the 14 February bombing, and Lashkar-e-Taiba”.
France, which has been at the forefront along with the US to take action against Masood Azhar, said it “recognises India’s legitimacy to ensure its security against cross-border terrorism” and asked Pakistan to “put an end to the operations of terrorist groups established on its territory”.