WASHINGTON: Deeply concerned over the growing confrontation between India and Pakistan, the US Wednesday urged the nuclear-armed neighbours to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions, warning that the potential risks associated with further military action by either side are unacceptably high for both the countries.
Tensions between India and Pakistan rose following the February 14 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district in which 40 CRPF soldiers were killed. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The United States is deeply concerned about rising tensions between India and Pakistan and calls on both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation,” said an official of the National Security Council (NSC) of the White House.
“The potential risks associated with further military action by either side are unacceptably high for both countries, their neighbours, and the international community,” the NSC official told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
The official was responding to a question on Pakistan’s claim that it shot down two Indian fighter jets over Pakistani air space and arrested a pilot.
Following the Pulwama terror attack, India bombed and destroyed JeM’s biggest training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80-km from the Line of Control (LoC) early Tuesday, killing a “very large number” of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders.
On Wednesday, Pakistan claimed it shot down two Indian fighter jets over Pakistani air space and arrested a pilot.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tried to defuse the tension by saying war is futile and can lead to unknown consequences while making an oblique reference to the nuclear weapons that both countries possess.
“United States officials expressed their strong solidarity with India following the Pulwama attack,” the official said.
The official declined to comment on direct communication between the national security advisors of the two countries.
“We decline to comment on specific discussions; however, reports that India coordinated its military response with the United States are inaccurate,” the official said.
A day earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke over phone with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi seeking de-escalation of tensions.
“Following Indian counter-terrorism actions on February 26, I spoke with Indian Minister of External Affairs Swaraj to emphasise our close security partnership and shared goal of maintaining peace and security in the region,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Pompeo is currently in Vietnam to attend the second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the denuclearsation of the Korean peninsula.
“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,” Pompeo said.
“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 prioritise direct communication and avoid further military activity,” he said.
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. PTI