Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday cautioned fellow nuclear power India against taking any action over the deadly attack in Kashmir, telling India he is willing to act if it can provide “actionable evidence” that Islamabad was behind the attack.
The Pakitan-allied terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the February 14 that left more than 40 Indian security forces dead, marking the deadliest attack in the volatile Kashmir region in more than a decade.
According to the Times of India (TOI), PM Khan reportedly declared in a video message on Tuesday:
It is in our interest that nobody from our soil spreads violence. I want to tell the Indian government that we will take action if evidence is found against anyone from Pakistan. We want stability. Why would we carry out any such attack?
Addressing the Indian government, he added, “If you think you will attack us and we will not think of retaliating, we will retaliate. We all know starting a war is in the hands of humans, where it will lead us only God knows. This issue should be solved through dialogue.”
China, its ally Pakistan, and their rival India all have competing claims to the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, home to several jihadis including some linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Khan’s warning came after India accused Pakistan of being behind the Valentine’s Day terrorist suicide attack in Kashmir.
“We will give a fitting, jaw-breaking reply, our neighbor will not be allowed to destabilize us,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared following the incident.
India claimed to have “incontrovertible evidence” of Pakistan’s involvement, an accusation rejected by Islamabad.
While India accuses Pakistan of backing Islamic terrorists in Kashmir, Islamabad blames New Delhi of violently oppressing pro-Pakistan separatists who are fighting for independence or in favor of a merger with Pakistan.
The Valentine’s Day attack further inflamed tensions between nuclear-powered India and Pakistan, which have gone to war three times already over Kashmir.
Despite a 2003 ceasefire, India and Pakistan often clash along the border that separates their respective regions in Kashmir. Over 500 fatalities last year reportedly made 2018 the deadliest year in Kashmir in almost a decade.
On Monday, another gun battle in the same region where the Valentine’s Day assault took place left nine people dead, including four Indian soldiers, a policeman, a civilian, and three JeM terrorists.
India, Afghanistan, and the United States have repeatedly accused Pakistan of harboring terrorist groups. The U.S. has suspended hundreds of millions in aid over Islamabad’s reluctance to take decisive action against the Afghan Taliban and its Haqqani Network allies, to no avail.
Pakistan is using its influence over the Taliban to help the United States reach a peace agreement with the terrorist group. India has expressed concerns over that a peace agreement and possible U.S. withdrawal will strengthen the influence of pro-Pakistan Taliban jihadis in South Asia.