Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday said he had credible information that India was planning a surgical strike against Pakistan to divert attention from its internal affairs and that it was trying to seek "tacit approval" for the move from its "partners".
The foreign minister made this statement at a press conference in Abu Dhabi, where he is ending a two-day visit during which he held meetings with the top brass of the Emirati leadership.
At the presser, Qureshi summed up his engagements with the UAE leadership over the last two days but also touched on the designs of India, which he said were "picked up by intelligence".
"An important development has cropped up [...] I've learned through our intelligence forces [...] that India is planning a surgical strike against Pakistan," said Qureshi.
Terming it a "serious development" he further elaborated that India is already "trying to seek tacit approval" from what Qureshi said were "important players who they consider to be their partners".
The minister said in his opinion this operation was being planned so India could divert attention from "serious internal issues" and as a means to unify divisions in the country.
Qureshi noted that Pakistan had revealed “India sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan” through a dossier that it shared with the international community.
He also mentioned the recent report by the EU DisinfoLab which exposed an Indian disinformation network of “fake websites and fake NGOs that they had launched with a sole objective to malign Pakistan”.
Elaborating on the “serious internal issues” facing India at the moment, Qureshi said the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir “was never good but has deteriorated further”.
The ongoing farmers’ protests in Punjab, Qureshi said, was a “country-wide protest” resulting from “the policies of this regime, the BJP regime”. He said the protest was growing, with various segments of India such as “opposition parties, lawyers, civil society and trade unions” expressing their support for it.
“The mishandling of the coronavirus by Indian authorities is known to everyone. The impact that it is having on their economy is known to all.”
The situation of the minorities in India, the foreign minister said, was also “increasingly uncomfortable”, referring to the protests in Assam and the situation of Dalits, Sikhs and Muslims.
Qureshi said “Pakistan is fully prepared to respond to and defeat India's designs.”
“We will do it […] as we did respond immediately and effectively in February 2019,” he warned.
The foreign minister said this information, of an imminent strike against Pakistan, had been shared with relevant capitals, who had been apprised of India’s plans and Pakistan’s willingness to respond.
He said any “misadventure” could seriously undermine and set back the Afghan peace process and “India will be held responsible for this.”
“I warn my eastern neighbour, we are aware of their mindset and we are aware of their designs […] and Pakistan will respond.”
Apprising the room on developments during his two-day visit to the UAE, Qureshi said he had “good meetings” with Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai's ruler, and that they discussed not only bilateral relations but also “opportunities […] for trade and investment”.
He thanked the ruler of Dubai for his support and the support that UAE had provided to Pakistan over the years during difficult times, calling the two countries “destined strategic partners”.
The foreign minister said he would be meeting with the head of UAE intelligence after the media briefing where he would take up the visas issue with him.
Weeks earlier, the UAE included Pakistan among the 12 countries for whose nationals it had suspended issuing visit visas. The move had raised eyebrows as it was not immediately clear why the measure had been applied to Pakistan. The Foreign Office had at the time said it was seeking more clarity from Emirati authorities but that it appeared to be a coronavirus related move.
Days after the suspension of visas, a report published by Reuters said the move was implemented due to "security concerns" without elaborating on what those concerns were.
Qureshi ended the briefing by reaffirming the contributions Pakistan has made in the “progress and development of UAE” and hoped to resolve the few issues that remain.
Army on high alert
Qureshi's stern remarks against India while on a trip to UAE come on the heels of an already tense atmosphere.
Informed sources told Dawn earlier this month that the Pakistan Army had been put on high alert amidst a possible threat of another attempt by India to conduct a surgical strike inside Pakistani territory.
They said that after facing a humiliating defeat in Ladakh and Doklam, India was preparing to launch another attack on the Line of Control (LoC) and across the Working Boundary at Pulwama, posing a threat to the regional peace and stability.
An official said a “false flag operation” was being planned by India to divert the world’s attention from several of its internal issues, including the ongoing farmers’ protest, its treatment of minorities, atrocities committed by Indian forces in occupied Kashmir and criticism of its policies by international institutions and media.
“India may at any time repeat a Pulwama-like drama to divert attention from the internal problems and was planning an action along the LoC and Working Boundary,” he said.
In 2016, India had claimed to have carried out a surgical strike on the LoC, a claim rubbished by Pakistan. Similarly, on Feb 26 last year, India had tried to launch a similar operation against Pakistan but failed and two of its planes had been shot down by Pakistan Air Force. Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan was arrested and later released.
The decision to put the army on high alert came days after the Indian government approved the creation of a new post of deputy chief of strategy at the army headquarters as per a plan envisaged during the Doklam crisis with China in 2017, besides creating the position of director general information warfare who will also be dealing with media affairs.