Washington, DC – The United States on Tuesday (February 19) reiterated its condemnation “in the strongest terms possible the terrorist attack that occurred last week on an Indian Central Reserve Police Force convoy in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Answering questions during a regular press briefing, deputy State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said, “We’re committed to working with the Indian government to combat terrorism in all of its forms.”
At least 40 Indian paramilitary police have been killed in a bomb attack on their convoy in Pulwama when a car filled with explosives allegedly rammed into a bus carrying the troops to Srinagar. Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) said it was behind the deadliest militant attack on Indian forces in Kashmir since the insurgency against Indian rule began in 1989.
Without mincing words, Palladino blasted Pakistan for harboring terror organizations saying, “The perpetrator of that heinous act claimed allegiance to the United Nations-designated, Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed.”
Urging Pakistan, “to fully cooperate with the investigation into the attack and to punish anyone responsible,” Palladino called, “on all countries to uphold their responsibilities pursuant to the United Nations Security Council resolutions to deny safe haven and support for terrorists.”
The deputy state department spokesperson confirmed “close communication with the Government of India to express not only our condolences but our strong support for India as it confronts this terrorism.”
Palladino defined the bilateral (US-India) relations as a “close, cooperative relationship with India, a security relationship, and that includes counterterrorism operations,” committing to work “with India, the Indian government, and on these counterterrorism efforts, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including at the United Nations.”
Indian media and political leaders, along with protestors against the Pulwama terror attack, called for strict action against Pakistan, but Islamabad in its reply warned it will retaliate if India takes military action against it.
In his first comments addressing the Pulwama attack, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan went on television to call on India to “stop blaming Pakistan without any proof or evidence” and urged Indian authorities to share any “actionable intelligence.”
“If you think that you will launch any kind of attack on Pakistan, Pakistan will not just think about retaliation, Pakistan will retaliate,” Khan said.
Replying to Pakistani leader’s TV statement, Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement, highlighting that Prime Minister Khan had failed to condemn the “heinous act” nor offer condolences to victims’ families.
The blast took place on the heavily guarded Srinagar-Jammu highway about 12 miles from the main city of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. The highway had been closed due to snow and bad weather for a week, according to reports.
The lethal attack, once again raised tensions between two nuclear powered neighbors India and Pakistan. The two have fought two wars and several limited conflicts across their borders.