Pakistan defies US as it retaliates against India

The US statement, by its very wording, tone, and sequence, acknowledged India’s right to conduct the punitive strikes against terrorist camps that were first recorded by US’ own intelligence in 2004.

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's retaliation against what it sees as Indian aggression, which New Delhi, Washington, and other western capitals see as counter-terror actions, comes with a new development: Islamabad's defiance of its one-time patron Washington and the Trump administration's lack of leverage over Pakistan, in part from cutting off the aid spigot.

In a statement that left no doubt where its support lies, the Trump administration on Tuesday described India’s airstrikes on the Balakot terror camp as “counter-terrorism actions,” emphasized Washington’s close security partnership with India and the shared goal of maintaining peace and security in the region, and told Pakistan to de-escalate current tensions by avoiding military response and take meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil. 

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo who is in Hanoi with President Trump for talks with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, spoke to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mohammed Qureshi to underscore these points. “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 prioritize direct communication and avoid further military activity,” Pompeo added. 

From the get-go, secretary Pompeo’s statement nailed Pakistan and its claims that it was a victim of Indian aggression, terming the Indian air strikes “counter-terrorism actions.” The distinction not only sets a precedent for future action by New Delhi should Pakistan not heed the US and global advice to wind up terror camps, it also sets the tone for arguments that will inevitable arise in multilateral forums such as the UN. 

Several other countries, notably France, have recognized India’s right to self-defence while asking Pakistan to address the issue of terror groups on its soil. Pakistan has also been censured, directly or implicitly, by global organisations such as the UN and FATF for its patronage of terror groups. 

However, the American statement and global consensus against terrorism did not prevent Pakistan from retaliating to what it saw as Indian aggression with a borderline incursion at the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistani media reported that foreign minister Qureshi told Pompeo that Pakistan could not but respond to India’s “provocation,” although Pakistan’s hosting of terror group that claimed the Pulwama attack ignited the spat this time. 

The US statement, by its very wording, tone, and sequence, acknowledged India’s right to conduct the punitive strikes against terrorist camps that were first recorded by US’ own intelligence in 2004.

 Although the statement eventually encouraged both India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, it put the onus on Islamabad to do so by abjuring military response against India and instead directing meaningful action against terrorist groups. 

Islamabad ignored the missive. 

The US statement on the subject came hours after Pakistan’s military spokesman Abdul Ghafoor warned of retaliation at a time and place of its choosing, following up on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s warning that Pakistan will not only consider retaliation but will retaliate against any Indian attack. By the time the US statement came around 8.30am, Pakistani jet had already made their symbolic incursion at the LoC. 

Throughout the skirmish, Pakistan refused to mention or acknowledge the cause of tensions: It's unceasing hosting and use against India of terrorist groups that have been identified worldwide and proscribed by the United Nations. 

 Pakistan continues to coddle the Jaish-e-Mohammed despite the group taking credit and boasting about the Pulwama suicide bombing that killed 40 CRPF soldiers. 

In fact, Pakistani extremists and trolls celebrated the deaths on social media. 

Last week, the Trump administration indicated it supported India’s right to self-defence against such Pakistani terrorist depredations, exercising far less restraint than previous US administrations headed by Presidents Obama and Bush. 

Indeed, world opinion, except for a few members of the Jammu and Kashmir contact group at the OIC, has solidly lined up behind New Delhi, the outcome of long years of restraint against Pakistan’s use of terrorism.

 The full text of Pompeo’s statement is as follows Statement by secretary Pompeo 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. 

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. 

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 prioritize direct communication and avoid further military activity.
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