‘Pak refused to act’: Sushma Swaraj justifies air strike during meet with China

A day after Indian Air Force struck Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest camp in Pakistan, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Wednesday that New Delhi carried out the pre-emptive action after Pakistan refused to act against the terror group, following the Pulwama attack.

Justifying the pre-dawn air strike within Pakistan, Sushma Swaraj also spoke about the “grief and anger” in India after the Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber of the Jaish.

“In the light of continuing refusal of Pakistan to acknowledge and act against terror groups on its territory, and based on credible information that JeM was planning other attacks in parts of India, the Government of India decided to take preemptive action and the target was selected in order to avoid civilian casualties,” said the External Affairs Minister.

“The limited objective of the pre-emptive strike was to act decisively against the terrorist infrastructure of the JeM in order to pre-empt another terrorist attack in India,” she added.

Swaraj went on to say that “India does not wish to see further escalation of the situation. India will continue to act with responsibility and restraint.”

Sushma Swaraj, in China to attend the 16th Russia-India-China or RIC foreign ministers’ meeting in Wuzhen, discussed the Pulwama attack during her bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“I am visiting China at a time when there is grief and anger in India. It is the worst terrorist attack directed against our security forces in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said in her opening remarks during the meeting held on the sidelines of the Russia, India, China Foreign Ministers meet.

The meeting took place just over 24 hours after Indian Air Force fighter planes struck what the government says was the biggest terror training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot, calling it a “non-military, pre-emptive strike”.

In a statement on Tuesday after New Delhi said its warplanes had attacked a terrorist camp in Pakistan, China urged India and Pakistan to “exercise restraint”.

“We hope that both India and Pakistan can exercise restraint and adopt actions that will help stabilise the situation in the region and improve mutual relations,” Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang had said hours before Sushma Swaraj left for the foreign ministers’ meet in China.

Speaking about the Pulwama terror attack, Swaraj said, “The attack was carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Pakistan-based and supported terrorist organisation.”

Stating that the JeM is banned by the UN and other countries, Swaraj told Wang Yi that “this terrorist attack is the direct result of the impunity and cover provided to the JeM and its leaders by the Pakistani side”.

After the Pulwama attack, she said, instead of taking seriously the calls by international community to act against JeM and other terror groups based in Pakistan, “Islamabad denied any knowledge of the attack and outrightly dismissed claims by Jaish-e-Mohammed.”

Sushma Swaraj’s meeting with China is significant as Beijing has repeatedly blocked India’s bid at the United Nations to declare Jaish chief Masood Azhar a UN-designated global terrorist.

While countries across the world, including US, Russia, UK and France – part of the UNSC – condemned Pakistan’s role in the Pulwama terror attack, China’s stand on Masood Azhar remained unchanged.

Swaraj, who arrived in Wuzhen early this morning, told Mr Wang that this is their first meeting this year and therefore an opportune time for the two sides to take stock of the bilateral relations and look ahead for cooperation.