NEW DELHI: India on Friday verbally toughened its position on the ceasefire violations, as it put the onus squarely on Pakistan to de-escalate the situation, even as it raked up Islamabad’s “harbouring” of Osama bin Laden to depict its alleged duplicity.
This came on a day when Pakistan’s National Security Committee met and asserted that “war is no option”, even as it washed off all responsibility over the current firing at the border, which has seen a lull for the last 24 hours.
“From the first day, we have shown willingness to engage with Pakistan, but what have we received - media spectacle before the Foreign Secretary-level talks, hostile propaganda at international level, continued terrorism and recent violence against citizens on international boundary,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
He asserted that India would now respond appropriately to Pakistan’s moves. “It is for Pakistan to either escalate or de-escalate. We will be respond appropriately to what will be their efforts in this,” he said.
On Pakistan’s claims that the violations were started by India, Akbaruddin said the allegations were “being made by those who harboured al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden for over a decade at a military garrison town inside Pakistan while telling their Western partners who provided them assistance and military aid that they were supporting the global war on terrorism”. These were extremely sharp words for India, especially since this was the first public reaction from the External Affairs Ministry since the crisis began at the border.
Pakistan needed to end “adventurism along the International boundary and Line of Control” and restore peace and tranquility so that the civilian population could return to their homes.
“While we will not talk out of fear, we have no fear of talks,” he said, noting that any bilateral dialogue had to be take place in a peaceful atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam, who held her briefing before in Islamabad before the Indian one in New Delhi, repeated previous assertion that the situation was not started or escalated by them. She again noted that the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan were the right option to decide on the ceasefire violations. In contrast, India described the UNMOGIP as a “waste of scarce resources” and a “tool of a bygone era”.
Stating that Pakistan was a “strong country”, Aslam also said, “by firing on the LoC or by escalating the situation on the LoC, Pakistan cannot be brought to the negotiating table”. She claimed that Pakistan had done all it could to promote peace, but India had cancelled the Foreign Secretary-level talks.
The National Security Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, met in Islamabad to discuss the violations and was attended by all the military chiefs. A press release issued after the meeting said both countries were aware of each other’s capabilities, so “war is not a option”. “It is shared responsibility of the leadership of both countries to immediately diffuse the situation. The Committee, however, made it clear that Pakistan’s earnest desire for normalizing bilateral relations and defusing the situation at the LoC should not be seen as a sign of weakness. It is in fact a sign of maturity and sincerity,” it said.
Further, the Pakistan NSC alluded to Sharif’s participation in the oath-taking ceremony as a “manifestation of Pakistan’s sincere desire to constructively engage India to establish durable peace in the region”.