On March 28, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang urged the US to act cautiously on the issue of blacklisting Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief, Masood Azhar and avoid bypassing the relevant committee of the UN Security Council.
The comment came a day after the US bypassed the 1267 Sanctions Committee and directly filed a draft resolution with the UNSC to designate the JeM leader as global terrorist. Geng Shuang said that such actions would “only lead to further complication of the issue” and urged the US to “exercise prudence and refrain from forceful actions”. On March 13, 2019, China put on hold a request by Britain, France and the US to add Masood Azhar to the UN sanctions blacklist. China told the UNSC that more consultations were required for “a responsible solution” to such a listing, while also calling on the international community to focus on the Kashmir dispute as well. India has been pushing the UNSC members to name Masood Azhar, who India believes was behind the Pulwama attack, as a UN-designated terrorist.
On March 27, Pakistan’s Foreign Office dismissed a dossier handed over by India in the wake of Pulwama attack and sought “further evidence” from New Delhi to “take the process forward.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua called on Indian High Commissioner, Ajay Bisaria and shared with him the “preliminary findings” on the Pulwama incident after examining the dossier which India handed over on 27 February, 2019. According to Pakistan’s Foreign Office, the government had constituted “an investigation team, detained a number of persons for investigations and initiated work on the technical aspects of social media content”. The Foreign Office also briefed foreign diplomats regarding the issue. Pakistan made clear that while the investigation continues, preliminary findings reveal that there is no linkage of Pakistan with the Pulwama incident. In reaction, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said it was “disappointed at Pakistan’s response to our detailed dossier” which it said “contained evidence of the Jaish-e-Mohammed’s complicity” in the Pulwama attack.
In an interview with the Financial Times on March 26, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that there is a possibility of more military hostilities with India.
The Prime Minister said that he is “apprehensive” that “something could happen” before the Indian elections scheduled in May 2019. He said that after the Pulwama attack, “we knew the Modi government would use this incident to create war hysteria.” The Premier reiterated that both countries possess nuclear weapons, and that if the Pak-India conflict “had gone further…then God knows where it would have got to.” Tensions between Pakistan and India reached a dangerous level in February 2019, after Indian warplanes crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and claimed to have carried out a “pre-emptive strike on militant’s training camp” in
Balakot, Pakistan. On the following day, Pakistan’s Air Force retaliated and shot down two Indian fighter jets, resulting in the capture of Indian pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, who was later released by Pakistan as a “peace gesture”. Meanwhile, quoting Pakistani, US and Indian government sources, Reuters reported on March 17, 2019, that “at one stage, India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, and Pakistan said it would respond with its own missile strikes three times over”. The report also claimed that interventions by US officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton
prevented a bigger conflict.
On March 4, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Pakistan foiled potential missile attacks by India at more than five sites inside the country as the military was on full alert.
Tensions between Pakistan and India reached a dangerous level after Indian warplanes crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and entered into Pakistani airspace on February 26, 2019. The Indian jets were forced to retreat after Pakistani fighter jets intercepted them. India said it was a response to February 14 Pulwama attack and claimed that its Air Force had carried out a “preemptive strike on militant’s training camp” in Balakot in Pakistan. Pakistan rejected India’s claim by saying the Indian jets hit “an empty area” and that no casualties or damage to infrastructure occurred. International observers also found little evidence to support Indian claims. In less than 24 hours, Pakistan Air Force, in a swift retaliatory attack, shot down two Indian fighter jets and captured an Indian pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, who was later released by Pakistan as a “peace gesture”.
Quoting “a highly placed government source,” Dawn reported on March 5 that India at the peak of its standoff with Pakistan in February 2019, had planned a “dangerous attack” in Pakistan with Israeli backing.
The news report claimed that India had planned to attack Pakistan from its Rajasthan airbase, which is located about a 100km from the international border with Pakistan. However, through “timely intelligence and backdoor messaging”, Pakistan conveyed to India that “a befitting response” would be given if it carried out the planned attack and warned that it could “take the two countries to a point of no return”. Neither India nor Israel commented on these claims.
In a related development on March 1, 2019, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa told the top military personnel of the US, the UK and Australia that Pakistan would “surely respond to any aggression in self-defence.”
On March 4, the Pakistan Navy “successfully” thwarted an Indian submarine’s attempt to enter Pakistani waters.
The Pakistan Navy detected the Indian submarine and “used its specialised skills to ward off the Indian submarine, successfully keeping it from entering Pakistani waters.” The Navy said its forces did not target the submarine due to a government policy of maintaining “restraint.” This is the second time since 2016 that Pakistan Navy has detected an Indian submarine trying to enter into Pakistani waters. The development came days after a dogfight between Pakistani and Indian warplanes over the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
On March 1, Pakistan released an Indian pilot who was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27, 2019, after his MiG-21 jet was shot down by Pakistan Air Force during a dogfight over the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Indian Pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border crossing. Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered the release of the captured Indian pilot as “a gesture of peace.” The move helped in de-escalating military confrontation between the two nuclear-armed powers which was triggered after they carried out air strikes against each other. In this action, the Pakistan Air Force also shot down two Indian fighter jets. Many around the world described the freeing of an Indian pilot by Pakistan “A Moral Victory” for the country. In a televised address to the nation, and India, on February 27, 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the two countries could not afford any miscalculation because of the weapons both countries possess. The Premier said, “If this conflict escalates, things will no longer be in my control or in Modi’s.”
On March 2, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) adopted a resolution which said that Kashmir remains the core dispute between Pakistan and India and its resolution is indispensable for peace in South Asia.
The OIC resolution also reaffirmed “unwavering support for the Kashmiri people in their just cause” and condemned the atrocities and human rights violations by Indian troops in Indian Occupied Kashmir. The development came a day after Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj attended the session of the OIC in Abu Dhabi as the guest of honour. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi did not attend the session due to Swaraj’s participation in the event. In response, India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar said, “As regards the resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, our stand is consistent and well known. We reaffirm that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and is a matter strictly internal to India.”
On March 10, Indian Minister for Water Resources, Arjun Mehgwal said that India has decided to stop the flow of three eastern rivers to Pakistan.
Mehgwal said, “0.53 million acre-feet water has been stopped from going to Pakistan.” He added, “the water has been stored and whenever Rajasthan or Punjab needs it, they can use it for drinking and irrigation purposes.” Media reports citing Pakistani experts claimed that India’s decision to stop water flow of eastern rivers into Pakistan would not affect the country as the Indus Waters Treaty already gives India right to use water from the Eastern rivers (the Ravi, the Beas and the Sutlej).
On March 14, Pakistan and India held “constructive discussions” for the facilitation of Sikh pilgrims to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the Kartarpur Corridor.
The meeting was held at Attari in India. The Pakistani delegation was led by DG (South Asia & SAARC) at Foreign Ministry, Dr. Mohammad Faisal while the Indian side was led by S.C.L. Das, Joint Secretary at Ministry of Home Affairs. Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that both sides held detailed discussions on various aspects and provisions of the draft agreement for facilitation of pilgrims. Pakistan and India also agreed to work towards “expeditiously operationalising” the Kartarpur Corridor.