Proud of how nation dealt with India standoff: PM

Published: February 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that the Pakistani nation displayed “maturity and unity” while tackling the crisis with India in the wake of last year’s deadly suicide attack on Indian forces in the Pulwama district of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K).

He appreciated the armed forces, the political parties, and the media for showing unity after tensions escalated between the two nuclear-armed neighbours following the Pulwama bombing that killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers on Feb 14, 2019.

“I am speaking as a Pakistani, not as the prime minister, that I was proud to see how the Pakistani nation dealt with the crisis during the standoff with India,” he told an event titled ‘Pakistan’s Responsible and Resolute Response to Indian Aggression of 26th Feb 2019’ in Islamabad.

In a knee-jerk reaction, Delhi had blamed Pakistan for the Pulwama bombing, even though Islamabad offered cooperation in investigations. India resorted to threats and then after days of menacing moves, its air force jets violated Pakistan’s airspace on Feb 26 and dropped their payloads at an unfrequented mountainous area of Balakot, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The next day, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) warplanes mounted reprisal strikes deep inside IOJ&K, triggering a dogfight in which two Indian aircraft were shot down. The pilot of one of the jets was captured who was subsequently released as a goodwill gesture.

At Thursday’s ceremony – which was also attended by the three services chiefs as well as cabinet ministers and senior officials – the prime minister said Pakistan was prepared for India’s aggression. “We were ready,” he said. There were intelligence reports that India had planned to show some form of belligerence following the Pulwama attack. “Our armed forces acted with restraint in response to India’s moves,” he added.

India’s media and politicians were beating the war drums, the premier said. “The fact that the crisis did not aggravate and the situation didn’t worsen only shows the maturity of the Pakistani nation,” he added. “We could have panicked … and responded to the Indian bombing on the spot. But we waited, [until we confirmed] the next day that there had been no casualties and then responded [to the Indian aggression] accordingly.”

Imran lauded the Pakistani media for displaying maturity. He also praised the political parties in the National Assembly for coming on to one page in the wake of the Pakistan-India tensions despite differences.

The prime minister warned that India has set out on a “very dangerous path” from where it would be very difficult for it to return. “Only bloodshed follows that kind of racist, totalitarian and fascist RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] ideology adopted by [India],” he said.

“The Hindutva philosophy prevailing in India is spreading hatred against Muslims and Christians and its next target will be other Indian minorities. There can be very serious consequences of marginalising such a large minority. India is now trapped.”

Calling on the international community to act in the prevailing situation in India, saying: “My appeal to the international community is that this is the time to take action,” otherwise, “things will keep getting worse”.

The prime minister reminded the gathering that he has tried his best to explain to the world leaders the possible consequences of this Hindutva ideology after India’s move to strip IOJ&K of its special status in August last year.

He noted that the move was followed by India’s Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. “Clearly this was something that is not done in the modern world. This violates all human rights.”

He also referred to the ongoing communal riots in India. “What we saw in Delhi last night is just the beginning. I don’t see how this is going to stop,” he warned. “Unless the world community intervenes, India has seriously taken a path which is going to be self-destructive”.

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