Armed forces free to hit back, says PM Modi on Pulwama terror attack
Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned up the heat on Pakistan on Saturday, saying he had given the armed forces a free hand to punish the masterminds of the suicide bombing that killed 45 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in the deadliest terrorist attack ever in Kashmir.
“How, when, where and who will punish the killers and their promoters will be decided by our forces, who are capable of dealing with the situation,” Modi said at a public meeting in this Maharashtra town, two days after the attack for which the Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility.
Modi, who virtually launched the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) election campaign from Pandharkawda, said he could understand public anguish over the attack, carried out by a 22-year-old Pulwama resident who drove a car packed with explosives into a CRPF bus, part of a 78-vehicle convoy on its way from one transit camp in Jammu to another in Srinagar.
Watch | PM Modi: Sacrifice of those killed in Pulwama will not go in vain
“Wherever the terror groups and the perpetrators may hide, our security forces will flush them out and punish them,” the PM said at the meeting at which two minutes of silence was observed to pay homage to the troopers who died in the attack. “Be patient and trust them.”
He did not mention Pakistan by name.
“A nation which came into existence after Partition and encourages terror activities, and which is on the verge of bankruptcy, has now become the second name for terror,” Modi said.
In other developments on Saturday and overnight, Indian high commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria arrived in New Delhi for consultations with senior officials and the political leadership over the fallout of the Pulwama terror attack. US national security adviser John Bolton told his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, on the phone that the US supported India’s right to self defence.
Bisaria’s arrival dovetailed with speculation that India may downgrade diplomatic ties with Pakistan.
Bolton, in a telephone call to Doval, promised to work with India to “ensure that Pakistan ceases to be a safe haven for JeM [Jaish-e-Mohammad] and terrorist groups that target India, the US and others in the region,” according to a readout released by the foreign ministry on Saturday.
Doval and Bolton resolved to hold Pakistan to account for its obligations under UN resolutions and remove all obstacles to designating JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, the ministry said.
It said that Bolton supported India’s right to self defence against cross-border terrorism and offered all assistance to India to bring the perpetrators and backers of the attack promptly to justice.
“I told Ajit Doval today that we support India’s right to self defence. I have spoken to him twice, including this morning... and expressed the US’ condolences over the terrorist attack,” Bolton told PTI in Washington.
Tension in the usually fractious relationship between India and Pakistan has escalated dramatically since Thursday’s terrorist attack, the worst in the three-decades-long Kashmir insurgency that New Delhi accuses Islamabad of fomenting. In September 2016, the Indian Army carried out retaliatory surgical strikes on terrorist training camps across the Line of Control dividing Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, days after an attack on the brigade headquarters in Uri left 19 soldiers dead.
On Friday, India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trade status it bestowed on Pakistan in 1996, entitling the neighbour to certain export incentives, and launched an all-out diplomatic offensive to isolate Islamabad, which has denied involvement in the Pulwama attack.
The offensive continued on Saturday, with the foreign ministry briefing heads of mission of Middle Eastern countries about Islamabad’s role in sponsoring JeM. Ambassadors of the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Bahrain, Jordan, Oman, Morocco, Egypt and Kuwait attended the briefing.
One day prior, the ministry apprised around 25 heads of mission, including representatives from South Korea, Sweden, Slovakia, France, Spain, Bhutan, Germany, Hungary, Italy, European Union, Canada, Britain, Russia, Israel, Australia, and Japan.
Domestic political parties closed ranks on Saturday at a meeting called by Union home minister Rajnath Singh to discuss the Pulwama attack. “We condemn terrorism in all forms and the support being given to it from across the border,” a resolution adopted at an all-party meeting said.
“The entire nation speaks in one voice to express its determination to fight these challenges. Today, we stand united in solidarity with our security forces in fighting terrorism and in defending the unity and integrity of India,” the resolution said.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Opposition had informed the home minister that it would stand alongside the government in the fight against terror. Opposition parties also requested Rajnath Singh to ask the Prime Minister to meet the presidents of all national and regional parties.
Singh said the government had “zero tolerance” towards terrorism.
“Rajnath Singh, in the all party meeting, said that due to the terror attack on February 14 in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulawama, the entire country was deeply hurt and there is outrage,” parliamentary affairs minister Narendra Singh Tomar told reporters.
“Rajnath Singh assured that the morale of the security forces is high and we are committed to curbing terror in Jammu and Kashmir. He said that the government has given a free hand to the security forces to deal with the terror groups and those who are giving shelter to them,” Tomar said.