Tue, 19 Mar 2019

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that his country had nothing to do with a suicide bombing that killed dozens of Indian soldiers in Kashmir and called for talks as the only way to ease tensions.

India has blamed Islamabad for the February 14 suicide bombing that killed more than 40 members of India's security forces, and warned of a 'jaw-breaking response.'

Khan said on February 19 that India had 'leveled allegations against Pakistan without any evidence' and his government was ready to cooperate with New Delhi in investigating the attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.

'If you have actionable evidence about involvement of any Pakistani, share it with us. I assure you that we will take action,' Khan said.

The prime minister also warned that Pakistan would 'retaliate' if India takes military action against it, adding that only dialogue could help solve issues in Kashmir.

'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.

An Indian Foreign Ministry statement called on the Pakistanis to 'stop misleading the international community and take credible and visible action' against terrorist groups 'operating from areas under their control.'

India has long accused Pakistan of supporting militants in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which is divided between the two nuclear archrivals but claimed in full by both since independence from British colonial rule in 1947. The two neighbors have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan territory.

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said on February 19 that Washington had expressed its 'strong support for India as it confronts this terrorism.'

He also urged Pakistan to 'fully cooperate with the investigation into the attack and to punish anyone responsible.'

Khan's statement came after Islamabad recalled its ambassador from New Delhi for consultations and Pakistan's foreign minister wrote a letter to the United Nations, asking it to help de-escalate tensions with India.

The minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, informed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his letter that 'for domestic political reasons, India has deliberately ratcheted up its hostile rhetoric against Pakistan and created a tense environment,' the Foreign Ministry said on February 19.

Meanwhile, India's army said three militants from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group, which claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, were shot dead on February 18.

Two of the militants were Pakistanis, including the group's 'chief operations commander' in Kashmir, Lieutenant General Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon said on February 19.

The attack had been 'masterminded' by Pakistan, and specifically its main Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, Dhillon also said.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa, and India Today RFE/RL

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 25 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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