ISLAMABAD: In times of crisis between Pakistan and India, the United States is known to have always played a crucial role – sometimes overtly but often covertly – to prevent the two nuclear-armed archrivals from a military showdown.
Over the past 15 years, a hawkish India twice came perilously close to resorting to military strikes against Pakistan— first after the 2001 attack on its parliament and then in 2008 when gunmen rampaged through Mumbai’s landmarks, killing over 160 people. Limited military options and capacity issues aside, on both occasions it was the United States which advised India against exercising the military option.
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As Pakistan and India once again locked horns for a possible military conflict in the wake of the Sept 18 Uri attack, the US is believed to have been quietly pushing New Delhi to take the military option off the table.
In background interviews, senior Pakistani officials and diplomatic sources confirmed to The Express Tribune that Washington was closely watching the events unfolding in South Asia and working overnight to prevent the situation from deteriorating.
One Pakistani official privy to America’s backchannel efforts revealed that Washington was not convinced with the Indian claim that Islamabad had a direct role in the Uri assault that left 18 Indian soldiers dead.
Even as the attack was ongoing, the Indian media started pointing accusatory fingers at Pakistan. Hours later, the Indian military claimed that the four attackers were linked to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad militant group.
Islamabad rejected the allegations as baseless and unfounded, and called the Indian move an attempt to divert attention from rampant human rights abuses in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
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“The US is aware of the fact that the Line of Control (LoC) is fenced and heavily manned by border guards from the two sides, so it is extremely difficult for anyone to cross over and launch an attack,” said the official, who requested anonymity so that he could speak candidly on the issue.
The official insisted that “contrary to Indian propaganda, the US shared Pakistan’s perspective on the Uri attack as well as violence in Kashmir”.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed strong concerns over recent violence in Kashmir – particularly the army base attack – and the need for all sides to reduce tensions,” according to the statement issued by the State Department after Nawaz-Kerry meeting in New York on September 20.
The official pointed out that the statement clearly showed that Washington did not support India’s position that Pakistan had any role in the Uri attack. “In fact, it shows that the US also thinks that the Uri attack may have been linked with ongoing violence in Kashmir rather than a cross-border activity,” the official added.
India’s sabre-rattling and jingoism in the wake of the Uri attack has reignited fears of a potential military confrontation.
Pakistan, according to diplomatic sources, has conveyed to the US that while it does not wish to escalate tensions, it will hit back at any military adventurism from India. Sources said Washington was urging New Delhi to resolve the issue diplomatically and politically, warning that any military conflict would not serve either side.
On Friday, the White House publicly called on Pakistan and India to resolve all disputed issues, including Kashmir, through diplomacy and not violence. “We have long urged India and Pakistan to find ways to resolve their differences, not through violence, but through diplomacy,” White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said.
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US pressure seems to be working as India, after initial rhetoric, is now backing off from using any military option against Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had been conferring with his top military commanders to look into the possibility of overt or covert military strikes in Pakistan, on Saturday talked about isolating Pakistan diplomatically.
When asked, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria told The Express Tribune that Pakistan “expects that major powers, particularly the US, persuade India to stop bloodshed in Indian occupied Kashmir and help resolve this long-standing dispute.” He did not, however, say if the US was currently playing any role to defuse tensions between the two countries following the Uri attack.
Courtesy : Express Tribune