Mike Pompeo urges India, Pakistan to 'avoid escalation at any cost'

February 27, 2019

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US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo spoke to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi "to underscore the priority of de-escalating current tensions by avoiding military action". — Photos: AFP
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo spoke to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi "to underscore the priority of de-escalating current tensions by avoiding military action". — Photos: AFP

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has urged India and Pakistan to avoid further escalation "at any cost" and to "prioritise direct communication".

In a statement issued by his office in Washington following India's Line of Control (LoC) violation, Secretary Pompeo said that he spoke with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj hours after Indian fighter jets intruded from the Muzaffarabad sector and scrambled back after dropping bombs.

While civilian and military leaders in Pakistan termed the LoC breach "an act of aggression by India", Pompeo called it "counter-terrorism actions".

“Following Indian counter-terrorism actions on February 26, I spoke with Indian Minister of External Affairs Swaraj to emphasise our close security partnership and shared goal of maintaining peace and security in the region,” he said in his statement.

“I also spoke to Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi to underscore the priority of de-escalating current tensions by avoiding military action, and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil," he said of his conversation with the minister.

According to the Foreign Office (FO), Qureshi had told Pompeo that Indian aggression was worthy of condemnation and hoped that the United States would play its role in the situation. He had also told Pompeo that the joint peace efforts in Afghanistan could be affected by India's aggression.

“I expressed to both ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost,” he said. “I also encouraged both ministers to prioritise direct communication and avoid further military activity.”

As diplomatic observers in Washington pointed out, asking Pakistan to avoid “further military activity” deprives Islamabad of the right to respond to an unprovoked attack while creates space for India to escape the repercussions of its action.

Diplomatic sources in Washington said that Foreign Minister Qureshi told Secretary Pompeo Pakistan could not ignore the sentiments of its people on the Indian aggression when he asked him to show restraint.

Pakistani diplomats in Washington also reached out to senior US officials, legislators and opinion makers on Tuesday, explaining to them how the Indian attack had created a very dangerous situation in South Asia.