WUHAN, CHINA: Feb 27:
On the day when tensions have escalated across the border with Pakistan conducting air strikes in India and two pilots reported missing after their plane crashed in Pakistan, India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has told China that India wants to avoid any “further escalation of the situation” and will “continue to act with responsibility and restraint”.
The Foreign Minister however made a scathing attack on Pakistan for refusing to act against terrorist groups on its soil in China. Justifying the pre-dawn air strike in Pakistan’s Balakot, Sushma Swaraj also spoke about the “grief and anger” in India after the Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber of the Jaish.
Swaraj is in China to attend the 16th Russia-India-China or RIC foreign ministers’ meeting in Wuzhen. She has stressed during talks with her counterparts from Beijing and Moscow that “no military installations were targeted” in the air strike, and the target was selected to avoid civilian casualties.
She said the attack was justified in the light of Pakistan’s refusal “to acknowledge and act against terror groups on its territory.” She said India had credible information that JeM was planning other attacks in parts of India, thus forcing the Government of India to take pre-emptive action. Care was taken to avoid civilian casualties and neither was any military target hit in the process, she explained.
“The sole objective of the strike was to act decisively against the terrorist infrastructure of the JeM in order to pre-empt another terrorist attack in India,” she added. Mrs. Swaraj went on to say that “India does not wish to see further escalation of the situation. India will continue to act with responsibility and restraint.”
She added, “I am visiting China at a time when there is grief and anger in India. It is the worst terrorist attack directed against our security forces in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said in her opening remarks during the meeting held on the sidelines of the Russia, India, China Foreign Ministers meet.
China has in a statement after the Pulwama attack urged India and Pakistan to “exercise restraint”.
“We hope that both India and Pakistan can exercise restraint and adopt actions that will help stabilize the situation in the region and improve mutual relations,” Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang had said hours before Sushma Swaraj left for China.
The External Affairs’ Minister’s meeting with China is significant as Beijing has repeatedly blocked India’s bid at the United Nations to declare Jaish chief Masood Azhar a UN-designated global terrorist. While countries across the world, including US, Russia, UK and France – part of the UNSC – condemned Pakistan’s role in the Pulwama terror attack, China’s stand on Masood Azhar remained unchanged.
This is the first meeting between Mr. Wang and Sushma Swaraj. India is looking at improving bilateral relations and look ahead for cooperation with China in the near future.