Britain on Thursday asked India and Pakistan to exercise restraint in the wake of surgical strikes by Indian troops across the Line of Control, while China said it was in touch with both countries to reduce tensions.
India’s Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said soldiers conducted surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads across the LoC, causing significant casualties. Pakistan denied the strikes and said two of its soldiers were killed in “cross-border fire”.
A spokeswoman for Britain’s Foreign Office told Hindustan Times: “We are monitoring the situation closely following reports of strikes carried out by the Indian Army over the LoC in Kashmir. We call on both sides to exercise restraint and to open dialogue.”
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing that China was in “communication with both sides through different channels” and hoped Indian and Pakistan “can enhance communication, properly deal with differences and work jointly to maintain peace and security”.
Shuang was responding to questions on whether tensions between India and Pakistan after the terror attack in Uri had figured in the first anti-terror dialogue between New Delhi and Beijing earlier this week.
A foreign ministry statement issued on Wednesday had said China values Pakistan’s position on Kashmir but hopes Islamabad and New Delhi will resolve the issue through dialogue and “maintain regional peace and stability by joint efforts”.
There was no immediate reaction from the US to the surgical strikes. Hours before India announced it had carried out the strikes, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice called on Pakistan to “combat and delegitimise” terror groups operating from its soil, including Jaish-e-Mohammad, which Indian blamed for the attack in Uri that killed 18 soldiers.
Rice condemned the “cross-border attack” on an Indian Army camp in Uri and highlighted the “danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region” during a phone call to her Indian counterpart Ajit Doval. She said the US expects Pakistan to take “effective action to combat and delegitimise United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and their affiliates”.
This was seen as a major snub for Pakistan after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s attack on India in his speech at the UN General Assembly.
“It were as if Rice was rebutting Sharif here,” said an Indian diplomat obviously pleased with the US response, which some in India had perceived as insipid so far, given the context of terrorism being a shared challenge.
Rice’s comments were also seen as significant against the backdrop of the foreign policy crisis in South Asia over India’s boycott of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit in Islamabad.
Rice’s remarks, reaffirming President Barack Obama’s “commitment to redouble our efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism throughout the world”, were seen as an endorsement of India’s position. The US had not named Pakistan in its first reaction to the Uri attack.
The statement also tapped into a growing sense of dissatisfaction and frustration with Pakistan, a non-NATO ally and a major beneficiary of US financial aid and arms supplies.