Kashmir’s Bloodiest Day Invites Global Derision
| Ashok Dixit, Editor - Foreign Affairs, IOP - 16 Feb 2019

Post-Pulwama attack, India launches a major diplomatic offensive 

By Ashok Dixit, Editor-Foreign Affairs, IOP

New Delhi, Feb 16, 2019:

Kashmir’s bloodiest day on Thursday has not only left the nation seething with rage but also evoked worldwide derision.

The Government of India has launched a major diplomatic offensive against Pakistan following Thursday’s terror attack in Pulwama which claimed the lives of over 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers and injured another 20. 

On Friday, India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status granted to Pakistan. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale briefed envoys of 25 countries about the security situation following the terror attack in Pulwama. The move followed the issuing of a “very strong demarche” to Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood.

Envoys of Japan, South Korea, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Israel, countries of South and Central Asia, and the Gulf were among those briefed.

“All the HoMs (Heads of Missions) were left in no doubt about the role played by the Pakistan-based and supported Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in the terrorist attack and our demand that Pakistan ceases forthwith all support and financing to terror groups operating from areas under their control,” sources said.

Gokhale is reported to have highlighted Pakistan’s responsibility for the attack and its use of terrorism as an instrument of state power when targeting India and others in the region. He is said to have demanded “immediate and verifiable action” against the JeM and its chief Masood Azhar.

India has also rejected the Pakistan Foreign Office’s statement which described India’s accusation as a media-driven insinuation.

Briefing the media after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, "MEA will initiate all possible steps and I am referring to all possible diplomatic steps which have to be taken to ensure the complete isolation of Pakistan from the international community for having a direct hand in this incident".

Kashmir’s bloodiest day on Thursday has not only left the nation seething with rage but also evoked worldwide derision.

Immense anger is being felt across the board over Valentine’s Day terror strike that has distraught families bereft and facing an uncertain future. The incident took place in Lethpora, about 30 kilometers from Srinagar. It came 18 years after a suicide car bomb attack organized by the same Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed the lives of 38 people and maimed 40 others outside the secretariat complex in Srinagar.

Between 2001 and 2019, the last big attack, though the JeM did not openly claim responsibility for it, was the attack on the Indian Air Force Base in Pathankot, Punjab, in the first week of January in 2016.

Thursday’s incident drew a barrage of international criticism on Islamabad. It was again charged with failing to sufficiently crack down on domestic terrorists and terror financing, and therefore, Pakistan’s continuance on global financial blacklists has not surprised most.

Washington, which also enjoys a strong relationship with New Delhi and sees the latter as a major player in the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy — America's foreign policy-blueprint for Asia, roundly condemned the suicide bomb attack.

The U.S. State Department said in a tweet, “US condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attack today (Thursday) on an Indian CRPF convoy in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. We extend our deepest condolences to the victims & their families, & wish a speedy recovery to those injured. #PulwamaAttack “

The White House urged Pakistan in a separate statement "to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil". It said the attack strengthens the US resolve to step up counter-terrorism cooperation with India.

There was no immediate response visible from Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May to the terror tragedy, as she was enveloped in an uphill parliamentary battle over BREXIT i.e. the United Kingdom’s proposed exit from the European Union (EU).

China on Friday condemned the terror attack but again declined to back India's appeal to list the Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the United Nations.

"China has noted the reports of suicide terrorist attack. We are deeply shocked by this attack. We express deep condolences and sympathy to the injured and bereaved families," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told media in Beijing.

"We firmly oppose and strongly condemn all forms of terrorism. We hope relevant regional countries will cooperate to cope with the threat of terrorism and jointly uphold regional peace and stability," Geng added.

When asked about China's stand on the listing of Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council, he said: "As for the issue of listing, I could tell you that the 1267 Committee of Security Council has a clear stipulation on the listing and procedure of the terrorist organizations. JeM has been included in the Security Council terrorism sanctions list. China will continue to handle the relevant sanctions issue in a constructive and responsible manner."

China, a veto-wielding member of the UNSC and a close ally of Pakistan, has repeatedly foiled India's bid to list Azhar as a global terrorist, saying there is no consensus in the top organ of the world body on this issue.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “Australia condemns the heinous terrorist attack on an Indian police convoy in Jammu and Kashmir. We convey our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and all those injured. Our thoughts are with my friend Prime Minister @narendramodi and the Indian people.”

Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said, “Deeply saddened by the news of the horrific terrorist attack in Kashmir. Bhutan strongly condemns the terrorist attack of any nature. Our prayers are with the grieved family and we are following the situation closely.”

In a message to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said: "Please accept the most sincere condolences in connection with the loss of Indian law enforcement officers in the terrorist act in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. We strongly condemn this brutal crime. The perpetrators and sponsors of this attack, undoubtedly, should be duly punished. Russia stands ready for further strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation with Indian partners. In Russia, we share the grief of friendly people of India and hope for the speedy recovery of the injured."

Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih said, “I strongly condemn the deadly terrorist attack in Kashmir today killing at least 40 people. We send our thoughts and prayers to those affected. The Maldives will continue to work with India and the international community to combat terrorism in our region and the world at large.”

"We strongly condemn today's attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district and express our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and to the Government and people of India," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said at her daily press briefing yesterday.

Dujarric said, "We, of course, wish a speedy recovery to those injured and call for those behind the attack to be brought to justice."

When asked about New Delhi's appeal to the international community to support India's proposal to list terrorists, including Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist under the UN Security Council's Sanctions Committee and to ban terrorist organisations operating from territories controlled by Pakistan, Dujarric said the "issue of listing of terror organizations is one that is in the hands of the Security Council".

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a tweet said, “ I strongly condemn the brutal terrorist attack in Kashmir's Pulwama district — the worst ever terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. I express my condolences to @narendramodi and the families of police officers who lost their lives.”

French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian in a statement said, "I most firmly condemn the heinous attack just perpetrated in India. My thoughts go out to the families of the fallen soldiers and my deepest solidarity to the Indian government and people. France has always been and always will be by India's side in the fight against terrorism in all its forms. I call on every State to fight effectively against terrorist networks and their financing channels and to prevent cross-border movements of terrorist groups, such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which has claimed responsibility for this attack."

Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over telephone and expressed his concerned over the incident.

The Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi issued a statement in which it said, “At this sad moment, we stand by the people and the Government of India. Bangladesh remains steadfast in its commitment against terrorism of all forms and manifestations.”

Pakistan, of course was the odd one out, when it refused to accept the blame for the terror strike. In a statement, its Foreign Office said, “"We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations."

Seventy eight trucks and 2,500 CRPF personnel were impacted by the suicide bomb blast. There isn’t a shadow of doubt that the Indian leadership and its security apparatus are now confronted by an unwanted but major challenge from terror outfits like the JeM and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), that too in election year.

New Delhi’s consistent claim that these outfits are state-sponsored and have the backing of the Pakistani leadership and army, and using every forum available to it, bilateral and multilateral, to emphatically pin responsibility for these macabre and hellish tragedies on Islamabad, once again raises questions on whether there is an urgent need to review and rework our counter-terrorism strategies and apparatus.

This second JeM suicide attack after 18 years is further proof of what many say is its unprecedented and escalated effort to take “centre-stage of militancy in the Kashmir Valley”. In the months of January and February, it has carried out as many as a dozen attacks in the Kashmir Valley, including two in Srinagar on the eve of India’s 70th Republic Day.

India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) will take some time to recover from the February 14 tragedy, admitting that it is a massive setback to the morale of its personnel. The stark question, however, staring at the families of the dead and injured is “What Now or What Next”? Photo Courtesy – Business Today / The Week  

(Ashok Dixit is a New Delhi-based media consultant with 25 years of experience. He can be reached at ashok.dixit26@gmail.com)


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