U.K. offers all assistance to fight terror

U.K. offers all assistance to fight terror

British National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill speaks to Ajit Doval for second time in one week

A week after the Indian Air Force targeted a Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp at Balakot in Pakistan, the U.K. has offered India “all assistance” in counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing. The offer was made during a telephone call between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his British counterpart, Mark Sedwill, on Thursday, their second conversation in the past week.

“Mr. Sedwill expressed solidarity with India in the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack. He said that all assistance in dealing with any form of terrorism will be extended to India bilaterally through counter-terrorism cooperation, intelligence sharing and by bringing the perpetrators of terrorist attacks to justice,” a source said.

The call by the British NSA follows a series of outreach by the Theresa May government over the tensions between India and Pakistan after the Pulwama attack. A day before the Balakot strike, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had spoken to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi advising “restraint”. After the strikes, which led to an aerial attack by Pakistan in which both sides shot each other’s planes and an Indian pilot was captured (and released), British diplomats have been working “behind the scenes”, sources said, to ease the situation and focus on action against terror groups in Pakistan.

On March 3, Ms. May spoke to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, commending him for releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan, and stressing the need for Pakistan to act against terror groups. The U.K. has joined France and the U.S. in proposing the listing request at the UN Security Council to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar as a terrorist. During a visit to Delhi and Mumbai on March 4, Mark Field, British Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, said he was optimistic that the listing would go through despite being vetoed by China on the previous three occasions.

Flurry of calls

The U.K.’s diplomacy is in line with a string of calls by other leaders and senior officials to New Delhi and Islamabad in the past week, including from the U.S., Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, all aimed at easing tensions between the two countries. U.S. President Donald Trump said publicly last week that his government was negotiating between the two countries, though government sources denied that any leaders had offered to mediate.

“There has been solid support for India, there has been solid understanding with India and there has been no talk of mediation … This is not an issue of India-Pakistan, this is an issue of terrorism. We have encouraged all the leaders [who called] to tell Pakistan to take action against terror groups,” a senior government source said this week, when asked whether the flurry of phone calls across the region indicated international mediation efforts were under way.

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