New Delhi: India dismissed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer to prosecute perpetrators of the Pulwama suicide attack as a “lame excuse”. Stating that Jaish-e-Mohammed’s base in Pakistan was “sufficient proof” of “actionable intelligence”, India also cited the delayed action against the masterminds of the 26/11 attack as evidence of Islamabad’s continued lack of sincerity.
On Tuesday afternoon, Khan claimed that if India shared “actionable intelligence”, he would “guarantee” that steps would be taken against the masterminds of the Pulwama suicide attack. However, he also cautioned that if India attacks with “revenge” on its mind, Pakistan will “retaliate”.
His statement came after more than 40 personnel of Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed after a suicide bomber attacked a convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. In a video recorded by the suicide bomber, he claimed that he was from the Jaish-e-Mohammed. A similar declaration was also made by the JeM spokesperson to a local news agency.
In an address shown on television on Tuesday, Khan said, “If you have any actionable intelligence that a Pakistani is involved. Give it to us. I guarantee you we will take action – not because we are under pressure, but because they are acting as enemies of Pakistan.”
He said that it was not in Pakistan’s interest to allow anyone to use its territory against any country. “It’s not in our interests that somebody from here goes out to do terrorism, nor that somebody comes here and does terrorism.”
If Pakistan’s territory is being used to carry out terror attacks, “it is enmity with us”, he said.
In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, the Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson pointed out that Imran Khan had refused “to acknowledge the attack on our security forces in Pulwama as an act of terrorism”.
“Prime Minister of Pakistan has neither chosen to condemn this heinous act nor condoled with the bereaved families,” said the MEA press note.
Khan not accepting JeM’s role was not a surprise, claimed the Indian foreign office. “Disclaiming any link between the terrorist attack and Pakistan is an oft-repeated excuse by Pakistan,” it said. The Pakistani prime minister has “ignored claims made by the Jaish-e-Mohammad, as well as by the terrorist, who perpetrated this heinous crime”.
“It is a well-known fact that Jaish-e-Mohammad and its leader Masood Azhar are based in Pakistan. These should be sufficient proof for Pakistan to take action,” said the MEA communique.
Khan’s “guarantee” to take action if “actionable intelligence” was provided was also dismissed by the Indian statement, pointing out that no progress has taken place in over a decade against the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack in 2008.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan has offered to investigate the matter if India provides proof. This is a lame excuse. In the horrific attack in Mumbai on 26/11, proof was provided to Pakistan. Despite this, the case has not progressed for the last more than 10 years. Likewise, on the terror attack on Pathankot airbase, there has been no progress. Promises of “guaranteed action” ring hollow given the track record of Pakistan.
Khan, a former-cricketer-turned-politician, said that Pakistan was ready to discuss the issue of terrorism with India, as this was “affecting the region and we want elimination of terrorism”.
“We have been fighting against terrorism for the past 15 years. How will Pakistan benefit from such incidents?” he said, adding, “This is a Naya Pakistan with a new mindset.”
Khan said that there was talk in India of “revenge” and “teaching a lesson” to Pakistan, but added that it was perhaps due to the ongoing election campaign.
He claimed that Delhi holds Pakistan responsible each time an incident happens in Kashmir and makes Pakistan its “whipping boy” again and again.
Khan asserted that there if there was any military action by India, there would be retaliation from Pakistan.
“I have been hearing and seeing on the Indian media that politicians there are calling for revenge from Pakistan. If India thinks it will attack Pakistan, then we will not just think but retaliate.”
The Pakistan prime minister then indicated that such action could start a war. “Starting a war is in our hands, it is easy. But ending war, that is not in our hands and no one knows what will happen,” Khan said.
“We hope better sense would prevail and the issue would be resolved through dialogue,” he added.
India responded that New Delhi has repeatedly stated that it was ready to engage in a comprehensive bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence.
A day earlier, Indian Prime Minister Narendar Modi reiterated that there was no scope for talks with Pakistan any more.
“The brutal terrorist attack in Pulwama shows that the time for discussions is over now. Now the whole world unitedly needs to take concrete steps against terrorism and its supporters,” he said on Monday.
Taking a jibe at Khan for bringing up “Naya Pakistan”, the Indian foreign office also noted, “In this “Naya Pakistan”, Ministers of the current Government publicly share platforms with terrorists like Hafeez Saeed who have been proscribed by the United Nations”.
The statement said that Pakistan’s claim to be “greatest victim of terrorism” was “far from truth”. “The international community is well acquainted with the reality that Pakistan is the nerve center of terrorism,” said the MEA statement.
The Indian foreign ministry also rejected the “false allegation” that India’s response was determined by the forthcoming general elections.
“India’s democracy is a model for the world which Pakistan would never understand. We demand Pakistan to stop misleading the international community and take credible and visible action against the perpetrators of Pulwama terrorist attack and other terrorists and terror groups operating from areas under their control,” it asserted.
In his statement, Khan also advised that India needed to introspect as to why the Kashmiri youth is driven to this point that it has lost the fear of death.
“Kashmiris are not afraid of death anymore. There must be a reason for that. Should there not be a discussion in India on this?” he asked.
“The Kashmir issue, like the Afghan issue, will be resolved through talks,” he said.
He said he did not respond to India’s allegations as he was busy with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit.
However, the Pakistan foreign office has so far issued two statements already over the last five daystill now.
A day after the attack, India called back its high commissioner in Islamabad, Ajay Bisaria “for consultations”. Pakistani envoy Sohail Mehmood also went back home “for consultations” on Monday.
On February 15 and 16, the Indian ministry of external affairs organised a series of briefings for foreign ambassadors and high commissioners on Pakistan’s ‘complicity’ in the attack and sought a series of steps from the international community to put pressure on Islamabad.
Over two days, India had done a series of briefings for ambassadors and high commissioners on Pakistan’s complicity in the attack and suggested a series of steps to the international community to put pressure on Islamabad.
Pakistan also conducted its own diplomatic briefings, claiming that New Delhi was apportioning blame without any investigation.
India had retorted out that there was enough physical evidence of JeM’s involvement, through the video testimony and claims made by the Pakistan-based terror group.
On Sunday, the Pakistan foreign office argued that India’s reliance on the video of the suicide bomber was in contrast to the dismissal of the ‘confession’ recorded by Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav. The former Indian naval officer was in Pakistan’s custody when the video was recorded and released. Incidentally, India and Pakistan are currently presenting their cases before the International Court of Justice in The Hague over Jadhav’s incarceration in violation of international treaties.
The visit of the Saudi crown prince also had enough elements which would raise hackles in New Delhi.
The joint statement released at the end of the Pakistan tour said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia “underlined the need for avoiding politicisation of UN listing regime”.
India has been seeking for last three years to include proscribed JeM chief Masood Azhar in the list of global terrorists under the 1267 UNSC sanctions committee. So far, China has kept a technical hold over the listing.
After the Pulwama attack, India had again sought the help of the international community in pushing through the roadblocks to get Azhar branded as a UN-designated global terrorist.
The Saudi-Pakistan joint statement further stated that the Crown Prince “praised openness and efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan for dialogue with India and the opening of the Kartarpur crossing point and the efforts exerted by both sides, stressing that dialogue is the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region to resolve outstanding issues”.
Meanwhile, Pakistan summoned deputy Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, Gaurav Ahluwalia on Tuesday to “lodge a strong protest regarding safety and security of its High Commission and officers/officials”.
A press release of the Pakistani foreign ministry said that protestors at a demonstration on February 18 were “allowed to reach and jolt the gate of Pakistan House despite presence of Indian security officials”.
“It was underscored that despite a strong protest to the Indian Government, acts of harassment targeting the Pakistan High Commission, Pakistan house, and the Officers/Officials of the High Commission and their families continued, including abusive calls to the Pakistan High Commission helpline,” it said.
Pakistan also called for “foolproof measures” for safety and security of Pakistan’s diplomatic buildings in India.
Pakistan foreign office spokesperson had also protested against “peremptory order” for Pakistani nationals to leave Rajasthan within 48 hours.
The UN human rights chief Michele Bachelet The UN human rights chief Michele Bachelet on Tuesday condemned the Pulwama suicide attack and called on authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
“We hope escalating tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours will not add further to the insecurity in the region,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
According to Colville, the High Commissoner is concerned by reports that some elements are using the Pulwama attack as justification for threats and potential acts of violence targeting Kashmiri and Muslim communities living in different parts of India.
“We acknowledge actions taken by the Indian authorities to tackle these incidents and we hope that the Government will continue to take steps to protect people from all forms of harm that may be directed at them on account of their ethnicity or identity,” he added.