Washington: The Obama administration on Thursday urged India and Pakistan to continue discussions on the military confrontation between the two sides to avoid escalation, while publicly slamming Pakistan and reiterating its support to India on the terrorism issue.
Referring to reports of India’s surgical strike inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Washington was aware of the development but saw the positive side of the militaries of the two sides being in communication with each other after the Indian action. ”We encourage both sides to continue discussion to avoid escalation,” he said.
Earnest then referred to National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s call to her Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, and the National Security Council readout that followed, which conspicuously endorsed India’s stand on cross-border terrorism and warned Pakistan to wind up support for UN designated terrorists and terror outfits.
”The United States continues to be concerned by the danger that cross border terrorism poses to the region and we fully expects Pakistan to combat and delegitimize the UN Designated terrorist groups,” Earnest said, adding, ”The United States is firmly committed commitment to our partnership with India and to our joint efforts to combat terrorism.”
There was no condemnation or censure of India’s purported surgical strike, which in any case Pakistan said has not taken place.
Earnest said the US also continued to be in close contact with Pakistan and it valued the ”important partnership we have with them on a range of issues.”
The US State Department meanwhile issued an almost identical statement while urging calm and restraint on both sides.
”We understand that the Indian and Pakistani militaries have been in communication, and we believe continued communication is important to reduce tensions,” it said in a statement, adding that Washington has ”repeatedly expressed our concerns regarding the danger that cross border terrorism poses to the region, including the recent attack in Uri.” Both statements implicitly censured Pakistan for cross-border terrorism, including the URI incident.
Earlier, the India-Pakistan spat barely made a ripple in the US, which is in the throes of a Presidential election campaign. President Obama did not refer to it in a White House event honoring para-olympics athletes, and the matter did not feature in the regular White House briefing till the very end, after Syria, Saudi Arabia and host of other issues were discussed.
Media reports and analysts broadly recognized India’s right to strike at targets across the Line of Control into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, territory that New Delhi claims as an integral part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Quite conspicuously, Pakistan did not get any support from any of its purported allies, including China, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey all three having had trouble with Pakistan’s nurtured terrorism.
One analyst said New Delhi may also be counting on intervention from Washington, which is cultivating a closer strategic relationship with India, and which could put pressure on Pakistan not to retaliate. “If it does turn out to be a one-off (surgical strike), yes, they could have set a new norm in terms of how they respond to attacks,” said Myra MacDonald, the author of “Defeat is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War told the New York Times. “Nobody is really going rally to support Pakistan on this.”