The US on Tuesday told Pakistan to avoid “military action” in the aftermath of India’s “counter-terrorism action” on Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp in Balakot and underscored the “urgency” for it to take “meaningful action” against terrorist groups operating from its soil.
The Donald Trump administration also called for India and Pakistan to “exercise restraint” amid heightened tension between the two countries.
“We encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement today.
Pompeo spoke separately with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistan counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi. “I also encouraged both ministers to prioritise direct communication and avoid further military activity,” he said.
Pompeo said that in talks with Qureshi, he stressed “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.
Indian fighter jets crossed the Line of Control before dawn on Tuesday and carried out “non-military, pre-emptive air strikes” within Pakistan to target a training camp of the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot, in the biggest escalation between the two countries in decades.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is in China today for a meeting with the foreign ministers of Russia and China, defended the air strikes across the Line of Control. “It wasn’t a military operation. No military installation was targeted. The objective was to act against terrorist infrastructure of JeM to preempt another terror attack in India. India doesn’t wish to see further escalation of situation. It’ll continue to act with responsibility and restraint,” Ms Swaraj said.
The air strikes killed a “very large number” of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders of Jaish. Over 300 terrorists including Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law were killed, sources said.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed had killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers in Pulwama on February 14, in the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir.
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 heaven for JeM and other terror groups.