LONDON: Britain's foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt Wednesday held talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi to prevent a further escalation of tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours following the Pulwama attack.
Tensions between India and Pakistan rose following the February 14 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district in which 40 CRPF soldiers were killed.
Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group claimed responsibility for the attack. Following the incident, India bombed and destroyed JeM's biggest training camp in Balakot in Pakistan's restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80-km from the Line of Control (LoC) early Tuesday, killing a "very large number" of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders.
On Wednesday, Pakistan claimed it shot down two Indian fighter jets over Pakistani air space and arrested a pilot. "I've been in touch with foreign minister Swaraj of India and foreign minister Qureshi of Pakistan. I've spoken to both of them about the situation. We are urging restraint on all sides," Hunt said in a statement issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
"The UK is very concerned about rising tensions in Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Both countries are good friends of the UK," he said.
"Neither side wants to see this escalate further but this is going to take really critical restraint in the days ahead and we are doing everything we can to support the de-escalation of the tensions that are happening at the moment," Hunt said.
The latest development follows a lengthy discussion on the "security and humanitarian situation in Kashmir" in the UK Parliament earlier on Wednesday.
British Prime Minister Theresa May had informed MPs in the House of Commons that the UK remained in regular contact with both countries and was working towards de-escalating tensions. One of her other ministers in the FCO Mark Field told Parliament that he will be in India on a three-day pre-scheduled visit from Thursday where he will carry on the UK's efforts to encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan.
India launched a major diplomatic offensive against Pakistan after the Pulwama attack and highlighted Pakistan's role in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The international community led by the US pressed Pakistan to deny safe haven to terror groups operating form its soil and bring the perpetrators of the Pulwama attack to justice.
India has asked Pakistan to take immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control. New Delhi also announced the withdrawal of the Most Favoured Nation status for Pakistan and hiked the customs duty by 200 per cent on goods originating from Pakistan