Australia asks India, Pak to 'exercise restraint'

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, who was in London on Wednesday, said that she was very concerned about the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack. (AFP File Photo)

Australia has once again urged India and Pakistan to "exercise restraint" and avoid further military action, saying the cycle of escalation is "very dangerous" for all.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, who was in London on Wednesday, said that she was very concerned about the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack.

"I was hearing very serious reports about an escalation of the conflict between Pakistan and India. I am very concerned about those.

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"If those reports are correct, we would certainly urge both sides to exercise restraint and to avoid further military action... this is a dangerous cycle of escalation," she said.

Payne said she would encourage "direct dialogue" between both countries to resolve these matters in a peaceful way.

"I will seek further information as soon as I am in a position to do so," the minister said.

Asked if the upcoming general election in India was behind the recent escalation, Payne said: "No, I believe the terrorist attacks in Kashmir recently generated some significant angst for obvious reasons. What does concern me though, is the cycle of escalation which is very dangerous for all concerned".

On Tuesday, the minister urged the two sides to exercise restraint and clearly asked Pakistan to take urgent and meaningful action against terrorist groups in its territory including Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

"Pakistan must do everything possible to implement its own proscription of Jaish-e-Mohammed. It can no longer allow extremist groups the legal and physical space to operate from its territory," she had said in the statement.

Payne said that the government was continuously reviewing consular advice and safety of its embassy staff.

"I would be expecting advice from High Commissioners on that matter. That is a matter that DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) takes very seriously both in terms of the safety of those we have working in posts and also of course Australians travelling," she said.

On Wednesday, the Australian government updated its travel advisory for India without changing it.

"Following a terrorist attack in Kashmir on 14 February, India's military response on 26 February and reports of air force incidents over border areas of the disputed region of Kashmir, there is increased tension in the region. There are reports of suspended and/or cancelled flights for some airports in North India.

"Airport operations and flight schedules may change at short notice. Monitor local media for developments and contact your airline for the latest information. We haven't changed our level of our advice - 'exercise a high degree of caution' in India overall. We have higher advice levels in some parts of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir," the advisory said.

In the wake of the Pulwama terror attack by the Pakistan-based terror group JeM, tensions have escalated between India and Pakistan.

India carried out air strikes against the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In the operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for suicide attacks were eliminated. The facility at Balakot was headed by Yousuf Azhar, the brother-in-law of the JeM chief.

Forty CRPF personnel were killed and many injured on February 14 in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a JeM suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

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Australia asks India, Pak to 'exercise restraint'

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