New Delhi: India has told foreign envoys that it doesn’t want to see any “escalation” after Indian airstrikes hit what it said was a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Pakistan on Tuesday.
“In an intelligence led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated,” said foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale in a statement before the media.
Immediately after the media appearance, the foreign secretary rushed to South Block, where he joined his secretaries in holding separate briefings for foreign ambassadors, including for P-5 countries. The Ministry of External Affairs had held similar round of diplomatic briefings after the Pulwama terror attack on February 15 and 16.
According to three separate sources with knowledge of the briefings, the senior Indian diplomats largely recapped the foreign secretary’s public statement that this was a responsible Indian step taken only after Pakistan repeatedly denied and refused to take action against the Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Clarification was sought from the Indian side on the meaning of the term “non-military pre-emptive action”. India explained that it was meant to distinguish that the targets were not military installations. “It was non-military, as non-military targets were bombed, we were told,” said a diplomatic source.
There was also a question on the exact location of Balakot, but the answer led to further confusion, it is learnt.
On another question, a senior Indian diplomat confirmed to the foreign envoys that contrary to media reports, only one target was struck, as per sources.
India acted responsibly and with restraint, it was emphasised.
“We were also told that India doesn’t want to see any escalation… Also, there was a general call that the international community should take action against Pakistan,” said another diplomatic source.
The Dean of Diplomatic Corps in Delhi, Frank Hans Dannenberg Castellanos also said that the information provided to the foreign envoys was similar to the public statement.
He also that India had conveyed that “there is no intention to escalate and will act in restraint and responsibly”.
Unlike in the last briefings, there were no specific steps suggested besides the general call to put pressure on Pakistan. “This briefing was more explanatory,” said a diplomatic source.
In Beijing, China was one of the first countries to react to the Indian air strikes by calling for both countries to exercise “restraint”.
“The harmonious coexistence of the two countries is vital to regional peace, stability and development. It is fundamentally in line with the interests of both India and Pakistan. We hope that both sides will exercise restraint and be able to take actions that will help stabilize the situation in the region and help to improve mutual relations, not the other way around,” said the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson.
He said that the Indian airstrike is aimed at terrorist force. “I want to say that combating terrorism is a global challenge. This requires cooperation between countries and creates favorable conditions and atmosphere for the necessary international cooperation,” added the spokesperson.
Australian foreign minister Marise Payne stated that 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”.
“Pakistan must do everything possible to implement its own proscription of Jaish-e-Mohammed. It can no longer allow extremist groups the legal and physical space to operate from its territory,” she added.
These steps by Pakistan would make a substantial contribution to easing tensions and resolving the underlying causes of conflict, stated Payne.
She noted that Australia urged both sides “to exercise restraint, avoid any action which would endanger peace and security in the region and engage in dialogue to ensure that these issues are resolved peacefully”.
The French foreign office’s acting spokesperson also seemed to back the Indian action. “France recognises India’s legitimacy to ensure its security against cross-border terrorism and asks Pakistan to put an end to the operations of terrorist groups established on its territory,” said the French spokesperson.
He added that France is “fully engaged in mobilising the international community to sanction the terrorists responsible for this attack and freezing their financing networks”.
At the same time, France also asked India and Pakistan to exercise restraint to avoid military escalation and added that the resumption of bilateral dialogue was necessary to initiate a “peaceful settlement of differences”.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, also held a briefing for the diplomatic community in Islamabad. “The foreign minister strongly rebutted the Indian purported claims of having targeted a large terrorist camp and resultant causalities is completely absurd and is based on a false narrative designed to placate domestic audience. It was emphasised that Pakistan reserves its right to respond against Indian aggression,” said a readout from the Pakistan foreign office.