President Trump welcomes “reasonably attractive news” from India and Pakistan on de-escalation
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, February 28, 2019 – President Donald Trump has welcomed the “reasonably attractive news” from India and Pakistan to defuse a conflict arising from a terrorist attack on Indian security forces in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month.
“They’ve been going at it, and we’ve been involved in trying to have them stop”, he said at the conclusion of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Thursday, in Hanoi, Vietnam. “And we have some reasonably decent news. Hopefully, that’s going to be coming to an end”.
In what is being called the worst terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir since the start of the century, 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed February 14 when a 19-year-old suicide bomber rammed a vehicle filled with explosives into a large Indian security convoy. The Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Tuesday, India launched air strikes on militant camps in Pakistan harboring “a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and jihadists” as stated by the Indian foreign ministry. A day later, Pakistan retaliated with air strikes during which Indian air force wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured alive. As diplomatic pressure mounts on Pakistan, it announced Abhinandan will be released on Friday as a “gesture for peace”.
India, which has adopted a zero tolerance policy for terrorism, has not confirmed if the move would lead to a cessation in hostilities. Prime Minister Modi has called on all Indians to “stand like a wall, like a rock” against terrorists who seek to destabilize the country.
The US, together with other world powers, has been pressing the two nuclear-armed rivals to end the confrontation fearing it could spiral out of control.
The Pentagon said on Wednesday that acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan is focused on de-escalating tensions between India and Pakistan and urged them both to avoid further military action.
The same day, secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in a statement that he spoke to leaders of both countries “to underscore the priority of de-escalating current tensions by avoiding military action, and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil”.
US lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were quick to condemn the Pulwama terror attack, but since then very few have called for de-escalating the ensuing confrontation and even those who have are staunch supporters of India on the Hill.
While condemning the Pulwama “terrorist attack on Indian security forces”, Senate India Caucus co-chairs Mark Warner (Democrat-Virginia) and John Cornyn (Republican-Texas) said it is important for both India and Pakistan to take immediate steps to defuse tensions.
“We condemn the horrific attack on Indian security forces by a known terrorist group based in Pakistan”, the lawmakers said in a press statement today. “For too long, Pakistan has harbored terrorist groups that have threatened stability in Asia and around the world”.
The senators conveyed, “it is critical that both India and Pakistan take immediate measures to de-escalate the volatile situation along their border. We urge the governments of both nuclear-armed neighbors to step back and avoid further provocative actions while keeping open lines of communication and working to reduce tensions”, they stated in the press communique.
Tulsi Gabbard, immediate past Democratic co-chair of the House India Caucus and now a 2020 presidential candidate, took to micro-blogging site Twitter to relay a message “to our friends in India and Pakistan”.
The Hawaii Congresswoman told both nations, “As nuclear powers, please remember it’s your responsibility to the global community to settle differences through negotiations – not war. In times like this, cool heads must prevail. The world is praying you will have the courage to work for peace”.