India may try distraction during high-profile visits: FO

The Fore­ign Office on Thursday war­n­ed of possible mischief by Delhi during world leaders’ visit to Pakistan and India within the next 10 days.

“We are concerned about the possibility of India seeking to create some distraction during forthcoming high-profile visits to the region,” FO spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said at a weekly media briefing.

There has been a history of terrorist attacks happening around major visits to the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two-day visit to Pakistan began on Thursday, while United Nations Secretary General António Guterres is due in Islamabad on Sunday (Feb 16) for a four-day visit. US President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit India from Feb 24 to 25.


Meanwhile, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global illicit financing watc­h­dog, will review Pakistan’s progress on the commitm­ents made for overcoming gaps in its counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering regimes during its plenary in Paris from Feb 16 to 21. Pakistan is curren­tly on FATF’s grey list and the review will determine the country’s future status.

Tensions have been running high between arch rivals Pakistan and India since the latter annexed occupied Kashmir in August last year. Islamabad has on multiple occasions over the past few months expressed fears that India may carry out a false flag operation to create a pretext for a misadventure against Pakistan. There have also been several provocative statements by Indian political and military leaders.

“There has been a consistent pattern in BJP government resorting to some provocation or distraction around important international events,” the FO spokesperson said, adding that India could do that again to divert global attention from the aggravating situation in occupied Kashmir and discredit Islamabad’s progress towards meeting FATF requirements for getting off the grey list.

The spokesperson hoped for good results at the review. “We are certainly hopeful and working closely with our partners in the international community in this regard,” she maintained.

An anti-terrorism court had on Wednesday convicted Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed in two terror financing cases. The conviction would help address criticism of Pakistan’s record in prosecuting terrorism financing cases.

Meanwhile, the lockdown in Kashmir continues, which has now completed 193 days. Ceasefire violations at the Line of Control by India are also continuing and there have been 272 breaches since the start of this year in which three civilians have been martyred and 25 seriously injured.

About the implications of a possible mischief by India, the FO spokesperson said: “While the credibility of such unfortunate Indian moves is already too low by now, they still carry an inherent risk of further inflaming the bilateral environment and potentially leading to unforeseeable consequences”.

She said that besides cautioning the world about a possible “irresponsible and ill-considered step” by the Indian regime, Pakistan would like to underscore its resolve to respond “most effectively and immediately” to any Indian provocation.

Responding to a question about the US State Department’s approval of sale to India of an Integrated Air Defence Weapons System, Ms Frooqui said that sale of such sophisticated weapons system to India at this time was particularly disturbing as it would further destabilise the already volatile region. “The US decision would disturb the strategic balance in South Asia with serious security implications for Pakistan and the region,” she added.

Reminding the world of India’s aggressive policy designs against Pakistan and threatening statements by Indian political and military leaders, the FO spokesperson said it was incumbent upon the international community to prevent further destabilisation of the region. The growing India-US defence ties would contribute to further destabilisation of peace and security in the region, she maintained.

Ms Frooqui recalled President Trump’s offer of mediation on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and asked for translating those offers into practical actions. “We hope that the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir will be raised during President Trump’s visit to India. Non-resolution of this dispute is one of the most destabilising factors for peace and security in the region,” she said.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020