WASHINGTON – The United States stands with India in its fight against terror, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday, amid high tensions between India and Pakistan after a bombing by a Pakistan-based militant group had killed 42 troopers in Indian Kashmir last month.
As diplomatic strain between the two South Asian nuclear powers continued unabated, Pompeo met visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale in Washington.
“Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Secretary Gokhale discussed the importance of bringing those responsible for the attack to justice and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil,” Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement.
“Secretary Pompeo affirmed that the United States stands with the people and government of India in the fight against terrorism,” Palladino said.
The two sides, according to the spokesperson, noted the strength of their partnership and discussed ways to further enhance cooperation, including on counterterrorism.
Gokhale is on a three-day visit to Washington for diplomatic consultation and strategic security dialogue and review bilateral relations on major foreign policy and security-related developments, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
“They also discussed our complementary visions for the Indo-Pacific, US-India defense cooperation, and the growing US-India economic partnership, including joint efforts to expand bilateral trade in a balanced and reciprocal manner,” the statement added.
This is a first secretary level meeting between India and the US after the Feb. 14 suicide bombing that targeted a paramilitary convoy in Kashmir, the deadliest attack in three decades of armed insurgency in the disputed region.
The attack, claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed guerrilla group, brought the two rival neighbors to the brink of war weeks before India holds a general election in seven stages starting on April 11.
India claimed that its aerial bombing deep inside the Pakistani territory destroyed a large Jaish training camp and killed “a large number” of militants in Balakot, some 80 km from the Line of Control – the de facto border that divides Kashmir between the two countries.
An aerial dogfight between the two air forces followed during which an Indian warplane, MiG-21, was shot down and its pilot was captured by Pakistan, only to be released later as a gesture of peace.
India and Pakistan claim Kashmir, one of the most militarized regions in the world, in its entirety and have fought two major wars and several minor clashes over the region.
India accuses Pakistan of supporting cross-border terrorism and provoking separatist protests in Kashmir, although Pakistan denies the allegations.
The escalated military and diplomatic tension with Pakistan, according to pollsters, was likely to benefit Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been condemned for failing to create jobs, address a huge farm crisis and rising inflation in the country.