Sushma Swaraj briefs China on Balakot air strikes, says India does not want ‘escalation’

'Pakistan's inaction against Jaish triggered the cross-border strike'

February 27, 2019 10:14 am | Updated November 28, 2021 09:17 am IST - Wuzhen

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj speaks at the Russia-India-China Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Wuzhen, China on February 27, 2019. Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj speaks at the Russia-India-China Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Wuzhen, China on February 27, 2019. Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia

Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday blamed Pakistan’s inaction against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) — the international terror group responsible for the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 — for triggering the strikes by the Indian Air Force across the Line of Control in the early hours of Tuesday, and reiterated that New Delhi was averse to any escalation of tensions with Islamabad.

“In the light of continued refusal of Pakistan to acknowledge and act against terror groups on its territory and based on credible information that JeM is planning other attacks in various parts of India, the Government of India has decided to take pre-emptive action. The target was selected in order to avoid civilian casualties,” Ms. Swaraj said at the plenary foreign ministerial meeting of the Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping.

She said, “No military installations were targeted. The limited objective of the pre-emptive strike was to act decisively against the terrorist infrastructure of the JeM in order to pre-empt another terrorist attack in India. India does not wish to see further escalation of the situation…”


Earlier, in the first high-level interaction with China after the Pulwama terror attack, Ms. Swaraj mounted a robust attack on Pakistan, accusing it of harbouring the JeM, which had masterminded the “worst terrorist” attack against the Indian security forces, on February 14.

Visiting China “at a time of grief and anger in India”

In her opening remarks during a one-on-one with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on the sidelines of the RIC ministerial meeting, Ms. Swaraj stressed that she was visiting China “at a time of grief and anger in India”.

Ms. Swaraj pointed out that the “worst terrorist attack directed against our security forces” has been “claimed by the JeM, a Pakistan-based and supported terrorist organisation banned by the UN and other countries”.

She said, “This terrorist attack is the direct result of the impunity and cover provided to the JeM and its leaders by the Pakistani side.”

Ms. Swaraj made it plain to Mr. Wang that “the entire United Nations had spoken with one voice condemning the terrorist attack”.


Beijing’s intent to pursue with “Wuhan spirit”

Despite India’s ongoing tensions with Pakistan, Mr. Wang pointed to Beijing’s intent to pursue with the “Wuhan spirit”—a reference to the two-day dialogue between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping to reboot India-China ties.

“Last year President Xi and Prime Minister Modi held a very important meeting at Wuhan, and this meeting led bilateral relations into an honest and stable new stage. Led by the leaders all level of bilateral relationship is going well. Every level of the two countries and also international society are more optimistic of our bilateral relationship. In 2019, we are going to keep working on the consensus of the two leaders,” he said in his opening remarks.

Ms. Swaraj said the decision to pursue “strategic communication” by the two leaders provided an “important foundation for the development of our bilateral relations”.

She noted, “This channel of strategic communication between the two of us and between senior officials of our two sides should always remain open.”

Also read | Editorial: The air strikes have delivered a clear, robust message; the follow-up must be restrained

Stressing the importance of maintaining the Wuhan spirit, Ms. Swaraj said: “It is important for both sides to make sure that thorough andeffective implementation of the guidance given by the two leaders. Both sides have made efforts and we should sustain those efforts.”

Cautious response to air strikes

On Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded cautiously to the Indian air strikes — criticising New Delhi for taking an unilateral action, but also urging both India and Pakistan to improve their ties.

Asked to comment on India’s assertion that it had targeted terrorist camps and not Pakistani military sites, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Lu Kang, said New Delhi should have avoided the unilateral action, and instead dealt with the situation through “international cooperation”.

But instead of singling out India for steps to defuse the crisis, Mr. Lu advocated that the onus was on both New Delhi and Islamabad to cultivate a “sound relationship”. “We have taken note of relevant reports. I want to say that India and Pakistan are important countries. A sound relationship and cooperation serves the interests of peace and stability in South Asia. Both parties [should] remain restrained and do more to improve bilateral relations.”

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