The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) used its weekly press briefing to train its guns once again at Pakistan's ambiguous stand on terror, and refused to entertain questions on the controversial casualty figure of the Indian Air Force's Balakot air strikes.
MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, however, confirmed that the IAF's MiG-21 Bison, piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft and there were eyewitness accounts and the government was in possession of electronic evidence of it.
Reporters at the conference also asked Kumar about fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, who was spotted in London on Friday. Kumar fielded all questions on the Punjab National Bank accused saying that the Indian government was aware of his whereabouts and is waiting for the United Kingdom to respond to his extradition request.
Kumar began the briefing by highlighting Pakistan's failure to take any "credible action" against terrorists on its soil. "In 2004, the then president of Pakistan (Pervez Musharraf) had made a solid commitment that they would not allow any territory under their control to be used for terrorist activity in any manner. However, Jaish-e-Mohammed and other terrorist organisations continue to operate with impunity. Repeated requests by India and the international community are met with denial."
Kumar held that the non-military Balakot strike had achieved its desired objective and demonstrated the country's firm resolve to take decisive action against cross border terrorism. "We have also shared evidence in the form of parts of AMRAAM missile which were recovered from the site and are only carried by F-16 aircraft of the PAF," he said.
Kumar said if, as Pakistan claims, it has evidence of downing a second Indian aircraft then it should have shared images of it. "Pakistan has plenty to hide. The initial bravado (following the Balakot air strikes) where they said 'everything is open, please come and visit', has disappeared. We are absolutely confident that the strikes on Balakot have been successful," he later added, in reply to a question.
Accusing Pakistan of not showing "seriousness," in taking action against terrorists, Kumar said that its government's claims of having cracked down on terror are "confined only to paper." "Terrorist groups and individuals continue their activity without hindrance. We are seeing the same script. Claims of action against terror groups were also made in the aftermath of the Pathankot air base attack in 2016, the Mumbai attack on 26/11 and so on," he said.
The MEA spokesperson also spoke on the back and forth of the Paksitani government and army on Jaish chief Masood Azhar. "It is unfortunate that Pakistan still continues to deny Jaish-e-Mohammed's own claim of carrying out the Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. President Musharraf had acknowledged the presence of Jaish in Pakistan, yet the spokesperson of the Pakistani army (Major General Asif Ghafoor) has openly denied that the Jaish-e-Mohammed operates in Pakistan," he added.
Since the Pulwama terror attack the international community has stood by India, he added.
Adding that Pakistan needs to move beyond words, Kumar added, "If Pakistan claims to be a naya Pakistan with a nayi soch, it should demonstrate naya action against terrorist groups...and end cross-border terrorism."
The MEA spokesperson also sought to dispel any hopes of bilateral dialogue in the 14 March talks between India and Pakistan on the Kartarpur corridor. "The talks are only related to the emotions and sentiments of Indian citizens of Sikh faith. We have a commitment to operationalise the corridor and meet the long pending demand of these people. Pakistan (through its actions) had cast some doubts on the meeting but we had never said this meeting will not be held," he added.
Kumar also chastised Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan for issuing statements on "India's internal affairs". "This is done with the objective of deflecting tension, taking the global focus out of the Pakistani government elsewhere," he said.
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Updated Date: Mar 09, 2019 15:56:44 IST