Pakistan on Monday protested to the US against what it described as the Indian Army chief’s “irresponsible” remarks and the “pattern of escalation” on the Line of Control and called on Washington to advise New Delhi to exercise restraint.
Foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua raised the tensions with India during a meeting with visiting US acting assistant secretary of state Alice Wells. Wells is the first top American official to travel to Islamabad since the US suspended security-related aid worth nearly $2 billion over Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts.
Janjua drew the US delegation’s attention to the “recent irresponsible statement by the Indian Army chief and the pattern of escalation by India” on the LoC and the international boundary. She also condemned Indian mortar attacks on Pakistani posts that resulted in the death of several Pakistani soldiers on Sunday night.
“She (Janjua) asked the US side to advise restraint to India and stop its escalation tactics,” said a statement issued by Pakistan’s Foreign Office after the meeting.
On Friday, Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat said his force is ready to call Pakistan’s “nuclear bluff” and cross the border for operations if ordered to do so by the government.
“We will call the bluff of Pakistan. If we have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, we are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons. We will have to call their nuclear bluff,” Rawat told a news conference.
He also said India could ramp up pressure on Pakistan to force it to stop cross-border terror attacks in Kashmir. “Yes, you cannot be status quo-ist. You have to continuously think and keep moving forward. You have to keep changing your doctrines and concept and the manner in which you operate in such areas,” he told PTI in an interview.
Wells’ visit to Pakistan was described by the Foreign Office as part of the regular engagement between the two sides on bilateral and regional cooperation. Wells was accompanied by officials from the US National Security Council and ambassador David Hale.
Besides the tensions with India, Janjua and Wells discussed ways to take forward Pakistan-US relations, which are at a new low following the suspension of American security assistance and President Donald Trump’s accusation that Islamabad had given nothing but “lies and deceit” even after getting $33 billion in aid since 2002.
Janjua said the relationship “needed to move forward under an environment of mutual trust and respect” and informed the US side about recent counter-terrorism actions by Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies that “contributed to visible improvement in the security situation”. These actions will also contribute to peace and stability in the region, she said.
The foreign secretary expressed concern at the “continued use of Afghan soil by elements hostile to Pakistan’s stability” and said strengthening border management mechanisms between Pakistan and Afghanistan is vital to addressing concerns relating to cross-border movements, the statement said.
The early repatriation of Afghan refugees too is important for improving relations with Afghanistan, Janjua said.
The statement quoted Wells as acknowledging the importance of the bilateral relationship and Pakistan’s efforts in eradicating terrorism. She conveyed the “US desire to work with Pakistan in furthering the shared objectives of stabilising Afghanistan” and said “Pakistan’s support was critical to the success of the US strategy for Afghanistan”.
Wells also “underlined the need for strengthening intelligence cooperation between the two sides to improve coordination in counter-terrorism efforts”.
The two sides agreed all initiatives owned and led by Afghans for seeking a peaceful solution should be supported by regional countries, the statement said.