INDIA summoned Pakistan’s envoy today (15) over a deadly attack in Kashmir and served a diplomatic notice demanding Islamabad take action against the militant group that has taken responsibility for the attack, a government source said.
The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed said one of its suicide bombers had carried out the attack on a bus carrying Indian paramilitary forces on a Kashmir highway, killing 44 of them yesterday (14).
India’s foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale called Pakistan’s ambassador Sohail Mahmood and “issued a very strong demarche in connection with the terrorist attack in Pulwama yesterday,” the source said.
Pakistan has condemned the attack, the worst in decades in Jammu and Kashmir, and denied any complicity.
Earlier today, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned Pakistan to expect a strong response to the car bomb attack.
“We will give a befitting reply, our neighbour will not be allowed to de-stabilise us,” Modi said in a speech, after meeting with security advisers earlier to discuss options.
India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley spelt out New Delhi’s diplomatic response.
“The ministry of external affairs will initiate all possible steps, and I am here referring to all possible diplomatic steps, which have to be taken to ensure the complete isolation from the international community of Pakistan,” he told reporters.
The first step, he said, would include removing most favoured nation (MFN) trade privileges that had been accorded to Pakistan – though annual bilateral trade between the two countries is barely $2 billion.
Islamabad, however, hit back at the suggestion.
“We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations,” the Pakistan foreign ministry said.
The White House urged Pakistan in a statement “to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil”.
The last major attack in Kashmir was in 2016 when Jaish militants raided an Indian army camp in Uri, killing 20 soldiers. Weeks later, Modi ordered a surgical strike on suspected militant camps across the border in Pakistan Kashmir.
Soon after yesterday’s attack, Jaish released photographs and a video of Adil Ahmad Dar, a young Kashmiri villager it said had carried out the suicide attack on the convoy as it passed through Pulwama district.
In the video, Dar warned of more attacks to avenge human rights violations in Kashmir.
Jaish is among the deadliest groups operating in Kashmir and has a long history of strikes against India.
In 2001, it mounted a deadly attack on the parliament in New Delhi that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of another war. India’s past efforts to add Jaish’s supremo, Maulana Masood Azhar, to a UN Security Council blacklist of al Qaeda-linked terrorists have been blocked by China.
Indian forces picked up seven people for questioning, after mounting a sweep in Pulwama, a police official said.
The bus in which the paramilitary personnel were travelling was part of a convoy of more than 70 vehicles on the heavily guarded Jammu-Srinagar highway.
Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik said there were security lapses and authorities are investigating why such a large convoy, transporting nearly 2,500 security personnel, was on the road.