What US NSA Bolton Said & What Pak Foreign Min Qureshi Didn’t Hear

Pakistan’s recent action echoes the words of 17th century French playwright, Moliere, who said, “It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”

What Pakistan “did not do” in this case was to include a critical part of its Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s conversation with US National Security Adviser John Bolton on Monday, 11 March, in its press note.

Pakistan’s press release of the briefing, and Bolton’s tweet on it stand in stark contrast to each other.

Here’s what Bolton tweeted:

As per the tweet, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, during a phone call on Monday, assured Bolton of “dealing firmly” with terrorists. The conversation took place the same day when Foreign Secretary of India Vijay Gokhale called on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington to discuss the need to bring to task the perpetrators of the Pulwama attack, and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terror outfits operating on its soil.

Gokhale’s call to Pompeo came in the wake of mounting tension between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir's Pulwama district on 14 February.

What Pakistan’s Press Note Says

During talks between Gokhale and Pompeo, the United States continued to maintain pressure on Pakistan, according to a press note issued by the US State Department.

"Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Secretary Gokhale discussed the importance of bringing those responsible for the (Pulwama) attack to justice and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.

Also Read: No Dialogue with Pakistan Before Action on Terror Outfits: EAM

But after Bolton spoke to Qureshi, the press note issued by Pakistan did not paint a true picture.

Pakistan’s press release suggests that Bolton was highly praise-worthy of them. While that might be true, the lack of mention of Bolton urging them to take “firm action” against terror outfits is a grave omission.

And like Pakistani analyst, Mosharraf Zaidi, points out,

"“...unless you are playing amateur hour as a freshman at a third-tier university, you don’t exit a critical conversation with a major partner without a broad agreement about how the phone call will be presented in the public domain. And you certainly don’t allow such amateur displays repeatedly. This is at least the third such incident under FM Qureshi’s watch when it comes to how differently Pakistan and key partners like the US signal the outcomes of phone calls or meetings.”"US Stands With People & Govt of India: Pompeo

Pompeo affirmed that the United States stands with the people and government of India in the fight against terrorism, he said.

"They noted the strength of our partnership and discussed ways to further enhance cooperation, including on counter-terrorism," Palladino said.

Secretary Gokhale acknowledged the US government’s stand on the matter and thanked Secretary Pompeo personally for extending support in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Pulwama, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on the meeting.

Secretary Pompeo expressed his understanding of India's concerns regarding cross-border terrorism, it said.

"They agreed that Pakistan needs to take concerted action to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and to deny safe haven to all terrorist groups in its territory. They also agreed that those who support or abet terrorism in any form should be held accountable," the statement said.

Also Read: Pompeo, Gokhale Hold Talks, Say Pak Must Act Against Terror Groups

Background

Amid mounting outrage in India over the Pulwama terror attack, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on 26 February.

The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured Indian pilot, who was handed over to India on 1 March.

The mounting crisis between the two nuclear-armed neighbours prompted the major powers to intervene and urged both Pakistan and India to de-escalate tensions.

Secretary of State Pompeo was directly in touch with the leadership of both India and Pakistan to ease the tension. The international community also mounted pressure on Islamabad to act against the terror groups operating from the country and stop providing safe havens to them.

(With PTI inputs)

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