International flags fly outside the Secretariat building at the United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg)  

Balakot Air Strike: The World Urges India And Pakistan To Avoid Escalation

A number of countries called for restraint and peace after India said its fighter jets carried out an early-morning strike in Pakistan’s Balakot, destroying the largest training camp of terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad.

“We remain in contact with both countries and what we believe is essential is that all exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions,” European Union spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters in Belgium.

Europe’s views were echoed by Australia as well. “Australia urges both sides to exercise restraint, avoid any action which would endanger peace and security in the region and engage in dialogue to ensure that these issues are resolved peacefully,” its foreign minister Marise Payne said in a statement.

China too joined in calling for restraint but said that India should have avoided unilateral action and instead dealt with the situation through international cooperation. “As for India’s claims on taking action against terrorism, fighting terrorism is a global practice. It needs to be dealt with international cooperation. And India needs to create a favourable condition internationally for that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said.

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“I want to say that India and Pakistan are both important countries in South Asia. A sound relationship and cooperation between the two serves the interests of both the countries and peace and stability in South Asia,” Kang added.

China is expected to further elaborate on its stance on Wednesday, when its Foreign Minsiter Wang Yi meets External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the Russia-India-China in Wuzhen, China.

The U.K. said that it was concerned that rising tensions pose a risk to regional stability. “The UK is working closely with international partners, including in the United Nations Security Council, to ensure that those responsible for the Pulwama attack are held to account,” a U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had held telephonic conversations with Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday.

Sources have also told wire agency PTI that Sushma Swaraj has spoken to her counterparts in U.S., China, Singapore, Bangladesh and Afghanistan briefing them about the air strike. In a phone call to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, she is said to have explained the rationale behind the air raid. The U.S. has not commented on today’s development yet.

Tensions between the two countries have been rising after 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in a suicide bombing claimed by Pakistan-based JeM in Pulwama, Kashmir. India’s foreign ministry today said that the terrorist organisation—which is also responsible for the attack on India’s Parliament in 2001—was planning to carry out other suicide attacks after the Pulwama bombing.

Pakistan has denied that the air strikes resulted in any casualties, refuting India’s claims. “Forum strongly rejected Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties,” the Pakistan Prime Minister Office said on Twitter. “Once again Indian government has resorted to a self serving, reckless and fictitious claim.”

Pakistan said it will respond to India’s “uncalled for aggression” at a “time and place of its choosing”.

India said that it has, from time to time, provided location of terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir region to its neighbour. Yet, Pakistan has denied their existence. “The existence of such massive training facilities capable of training hundreds of jidhadis could not have functioned without the knowledge of Pakistan authorities,” India's external affairs ministry said.

It added that it now expects Pakistan to live up to its public commitment to “dismantle all JeM and other camps and hold the terrorists accountable for the actions.”

With PTI inputs.

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