Govt wants Pak PM to walk the talk with immediate, credible and verifiable action against terrorists. India, sources stressed, wants immediate, credible and verifiable action against terrorists and their proxies

NEW DELHI: India will keep up the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorism infrastructure and the masterminds of terrorist attacks despite the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman following back channel diplomacy and public messaging by global powers.

The government will persist as Islamabad shows no signs of dismantling terror infrastructure and acting against operatives such as Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, well-informed sources told ET. The Pakistan-based JeM has claimed responsibility for the February 14 terrorist attack in Kashmir that sparked the current tensions at the border.

“Getting the wing commander back was India’s objective, without any deal or negotiations,” said one of the persons cited above. “We did not want a Kandahar-type situation to arise. His return will not mean that India will go slow with its demand on Pakistan-based terror infrastructure and terror financing.” He was referring to the hijacking that led to the release of three terrorists, including Azhar, in 1999.

India’s tough line is evident from the fact that Pakistan PM Imran Khan tried to speak to counterpart Narendra Modi thrice to inform him about the decision to release the IAF pilot but was rebuffed, according to sources. Pakistan’s efforts to link the release with deescalation of tension has not gone down well with New Delhi.


“There is a larger issue involved with regard to terror infrastructure,” said one of the persons cited above. “A dossier was handed over to Pakistan on JeM when its deputy envoy was called to ensure release of the wing commander.”

The Modi government wants Khan to walk the talk on investigating the February 14 Pulwama attack and crack down on terror infrastructure. India, sources stressed, wants immediate, credible and verifiable action against terrorists and their proxies.

“There is a political will in India to target terror camps and terror infrastructure,” said one of the persons. “The entire international community expressed solidarity with India following the Pulwama terror attacks and subsequently supported India’s right to defend itself. While India’s action was a nonmilitary one, Pakistan’s intentions were clear. It was trying to target military installations.”

While endorsing India’s right to act in self-defence both through public statements and in bilateral meetings, global powers including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) tried to defuse tensions.

US President Donald Trump’s statement in Hanoi on Thursday was a clear indication that Washington had sought to lower temperatures even as it asked Pakistan to act against terror groups. Russia offered to mediate through public statements issued by its foreign minister and chairman of the foreign relations committee in the Senate. Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Modi to assure India of support for counter-terror actions and lowering tensions. Earlier, Putin had written to Modi to express support for the right to self-defence. Simultaneously, the US National Security Agency (NSA) had also extended similar support to India.

France batted for India at the UN Security Council to corner Pakistan on Masood Azhar and to keep the country on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) gray list over its inability to rein in terror funding. China refused to back its traditional ally Pakistan unconditionally, sensing an improvement in relations with India amid growing economic ties. Pakistan had sought Beijing’s backing but China wasn’t prepared to give unequivocal support, leading to heartburn in Islamabad, ET has learnt.

Efforts by Saudi Arabia and the UAE were in line with a shift in geopolitical dynamics — both are keen to expand ties with India. The Saudi ambassador to Delhi met Modi less than a week after crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s India visit while the Abu Dhabi crown prince spoke to both prime ministers.