The Doval threat that brought Pakistan to heel

President Trump’s categorical statement that Pakistan could have problems in case of another terrorist attack in India seems to have at least set the pace for a clear pro-India tilt in US’s South Asia policy.

Written by Diplomatic Correspondent, Newsroom Post March 22, 2019 14:58

US President Donald Trump’s categorical statement that Pakistan could have problems in case of another terrorist attack in India seems to have at least set the pace for a clear pro-India tilt in US’s South Asia policy.

A US administration official was quoted by Reuters as saying, “If there is an additional terrorist attack without Pakistan having made a sustained sincere effort against these groups, it will be extremely problematic for Pakistan and it would cause a re-escalation in tensions.”

The statement along with reports of United States new initiative in sponsoring the United Nation security council a resolution against Hafiz Sayeed are being seen as signs that the US is now doing what it was supposed to do all these years— use its powerful diplomatic powers to bring Pakistan sponsored terrorists to book.

Whether it would actually happen or not and whether the United States would be distracted by its own Afghanistan specific interest in Pakistan will be in known soon.

The fact is that the United States would not have acted in a manner it did now but for a tough no-nonsense approach by New Delhi after the Balakot air strike. In a well-researched piece from Washington, New Delhi and Islamabad, Reuters brought out the fact that India and Pakistan nearly went to war post Balakot. The story also explained how the United States had to work the lines for de-escalation between the two countries.

Details that are now emerging seems to suggest that the United States did not want to de-escalate when Balakot actually happened. It was an air strike by India sixty kilometres deep within Pakistan territory. Technically, it was an intrusion of air space. But the Western reaction was muted and both countries were advised to exercise restraint.

Donald Trump

What got the United States on its feet was not the India’s “intrusion” but the Pakistan counter attack and the buildup in India for a missile attack. In other words, it is clear that next time India strikes, the West would look the other side.

What worked as pressure on the US were rumours suggest that the India’s Brahmos were being readied.

The Reuters story was specific about the Indian role.

1) At one stage, India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, according to Western diplomats and government sources in New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington.

2) That evening, Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spoke over a secure line to the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Asim Munir, to tell him India was not going to back off its new campaign of “counter terrorism” even after the pilot’s capture, an Indian government source and a Western diplomat with knowledge of the conversations told Reuters in New Delhi.

3) Doval told Munir that India’s fight was with the militant groups that freely operated from Pakistani soil and it was prepared to escalate, said the government source.

Pakistan Prime minister Imran khan himself talked about the missile threat. He said “I know last night there was a threat there could a missile attack on Pakistan, which got defused.”

It got defused only after India got specific assurances from the United States and other countries. In the past, Pakistan was not being penalised enough for its support of terrorism.

This time the recent statement from the US that another strike would make it problematic for Pakistan is an indication that India’s tough act in Balakot seems to have helped in no small measure.” All this while Pakistan was being pandered to because it was a “rogue” state, “said an official,” but India had to show that the Modi Government will act tough.

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