Delhi denies mediation effort from any quarter
India on Saturday insisted that no offer to mediate had come from any quarter, making its stand clear a day after China said it had been engaged in “mediation efforts” to defuse tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.
“There has been no offer of any mediation from any country; not from Saudi Arabia, not from any country,” foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
India’s position is that Pakistan has blinked on the post-Balakot escalation ladder not because of mediation by one or more country but because of the Narendra Modi government’s diplomatic offensive.
Kumar was responding to a question on Saudi Arabian state minister for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir’s trip to New Delhi on Monday, three days after visiting Islamabad.
The spokesperson sought to de-link al-Jubeir’s visit from Pakistan and called it a follow-up meeting after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trip to India last month.
The Saudis, along with the US and the United Arab Emirates, are said to have played a key role in bringing India and Pakistan down the escalation ladder though New Delhi insists that it was Pakistan’s “failed” air attack on Indian military facilities that had escalated matters between the neighbours.
Kumar said India’s February 26 strike on Balakot was a “non-military counter-terrorism operation”, adding that the intent was to demonstrate “our firm resolve to take decisive action against cross-border terrorism”.
Despite persistent questions on the number of terrorists taken out in the operation and the extent of damage to the Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp, he refused to go beyond foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale’s statement.
Gokhale had on February 26 said “a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis were eliminated” in the pre-emptive strike.
About the “efforts” being made by Pakistan to act against terrorists and terror camps over the past week, Kumar said: “We are seeing the same script that has been played out earlier after the terrorist attacks on our Parliament in December 2001, the Mumbai terrorist attack in November 2008, and the attack on the Pathankot airbase in January 2016. Pakistan claims to proscribe groups and individuals, but this is confined to only on paper.”
Kumar also spoke on what India expects Pakistan to do. “Both India and the international community are aware of the lack of seriousness of Pakistan in holding on to their commitment to dismantle the networks of terrorism on its soil. This has been proved over the last several years,” the spokesperson said.
“Now Pakistan will be judged not by the words which they speak but by the action which they take. The proof of action is not in issuing a notification in the gazette but in dismantling the actual infrastructure of terror on the ground. This should also be verified.”
About the dogfight along the Line of Control on February 27, Kumar said there were eyewitness accounts and electronic evidence that Pakistan had deployed F-16 aircraft and that one of them was shot down by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
The Indian pilot’s fighter aircraft took a hit, forcing him to bail out. He had ended up in Pakistani hands before being returned three days later.
Pakistan, Kumar said, should explain why it continues to deny that an F-16 aircraft had been shot down.
India has asked the US to examine whether the use of the F-16 against India is in accordance with the terms and conditions of sale.