US working hard to reduce tension between India, Pakistan: Pompeo

Manila: United States Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on Thursday said Washington is “working hard” to reduce the tension between New Delhi and Islamabad so that the process of talks could begin.

Talking with travelling press, Pompeo said: “We were and continue to be very engaged with the issue between India and Pakistan. I spent a good deal of time on the phone last night talking to leaders in both countries, making sure there was good information exchanged, encouraging each country to not take any action that would escalate and create increased risk.”

“I had good conversations, and I am hopeful that we can take down the tension there, at least for the time being, so they can begin to have conversations that don’t portend risk of escalation to either of the two countries. So we’re working hard on that,” he added.

Pompeo made these remarks during his two-day visit to the Philippines.

This comes a day after Pompeo called India and Pakistan and asked them to observe restraint.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Pompeo had a telephonic conversation late on Wednesday night, where the former asserted that the US supports India’s decision to take action against Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp on Pakistani soil, sources said.

On Wednesday, with Pakistani jets violating the Indian air space and dropping bombs in Rajouri sector after which one of their fighters was shot down.

Following Pakistan’s action, India said it foiled an attempt by Pakistan Air Force to carry out strikes in Jammu and Kashmir by shooting down an F-16 fighter plane while losing its own MiG-21 jet after which a pilot was “missing in action”.

Pakistan later claimed that the Indian pilot was in its custody.

Following the development, India strongly objected to Pakistan’s vulgar display of injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention.

MEA in a strongly worded statement Wednesday said, “It was made clear that Pakistan would be well advised to ensure that no harm comes to the Indian defence personnel in its custody. India also expects his immediate and safe return.”

It is worth mentioning that after Indian Air Force carried out multiple aerial strikes at terror launch pads in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir on Tuesday, the United States had asked Pakistan to avoid military action and take meaningful action against the terrorist group operating on its soil.

“I 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,” read the statement from Secretary Pompeo.

Acknowledging Indian actions as “counter-terrorism” action, the US Secretary of State said, “Following Indian counter-terrorism actions on February 26, I spoke with Indian Minister of External Affairs Swaraj to emphasize our close security partnership and shared the goal of maintaining peace and security in the region,” read the statement.

“I expressed to both the Ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and avoid escalation at any cost. I also encouraged both Ministers to prioritize direct communication and avoid any further military activity,” it read.

The air strikes by IAF killed a large number of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders of Jaish, including Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law.