'We support India’s right to self-defense': US NSA

'We support India’s right to self-defense': US NSA

Bolton telephoned Doval to express his condolences for the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir and offered the US' full support to India. AFP file photo.

As New Delhi weighs options to respond to the deadly terror attack at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, the United States has tacitly advised it against going for yet another “surgical strike” on terror camps in Pakistan.

Soon after 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in the terror strike at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, India launched a diplomatic blitzkrieg to step up pressure on Pakistan to take “immediate and verifiable action” against the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) – a terror organization, which is based in the neighbouring country and which claimed responsibility for the attack.

India also stripped Pakistan off the tag of “Most Favoured Nation” to do business with. While formal bilateral dialogues are already stalled since January 2013, New Delhi might review its engagements with Islamabad over the initiative to open up a cross-border corridor for Sikh pilgrims from India to visit Guru Nanak's birthplace in Pakistan without requiring passports or visas. 

But speculation is also rife if Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government will go for yet another “surgical strikes” on terror infrastructure in Pakistan, just as it did after the September 18, 2016 attack on Indian Army brigade headquarters at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sources in New Delhi told the DH that while Prime Minister had given “full freedom” to the armed forces to respond to the attack, the government would take a call only after carefully assessing the feasibility and consequences of such a move. The international community strongly condemned the terror attack and expressed solidarity with New Delhi. But the government would also have to assess if India's military action against terror camps inside Pakistan would also receive the same degree of global support.

Modi's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Friday received a call from his US counterpart John Bolton, who expressed outrage on behalf of President Donald Trump's administration over the terror attack. Doval is learnt to have conveyed to Bolton that Modi Government was under pressure to strongly respond to the attack, which was just the latest in a series of terror strikes launched from Pakistan targeting India.

A press release issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi quoted Bolton conveying US support to India's right to self-defence against cross-border terrorism emanating from territories under control of Pakistan.

He, however, is understood to have also subtly advised his counterpart in New Delhi that India should avoid going for yet another solo military action against terror camps in Pakistan.

He instead offered all assistance by the US to India to expeditiously bring to justice the plotters and perpetrators of the terror attack.

Bolton and Doval finally “vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan ceases to be a safe haven for JeM and terrorist groups that target India, the US and others in the region”, according to the press release issued by the MEA.

Sources said that apart from expressing solidarity after the deadly terror attack, what Bolton sought to do during his call to Doval was to convey that the US would expect India not to avoid making any surprise move against Pakistan and that New Delhi should rather take Washington D.C it into confidence when it would decide the future course of action.

The US obviously has reasons to make it sure that India-Pakistan tension does not escalate and turn into a military conflict. The US is relying on the support from Pakistan for the peace-process it initiated with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban negotiators are expected to meet top American and Pakistani officials in Islamabad next week to take the process forward. Islamabad is understood to have made it clear to Washington D.C. by now that it might have to withdraw itself from the peace process in Afghanistan if India launched military action against terror camps inside Pakistan.

Bolton promised Doval that the US would work with India to “remove all obstacles to designating JeM leader Masood Azhar as a global terrorist under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 Committee process”. China, however, in the past blocked India's moves to bring him and other terrorist leaders based in Pakistan under UN sanctions. Though Beijing condemned the latest terror attack by the JeM in Jammu and Kashmir, it declined to commit its support to any fresh move against the leader of the outfit at the UN.