Pakistan said Wednesday it has sought more evidence from India to determine whether any Pakistani nationals had played a role in last month’s deadly Kashmir bombing that pushed the nuclear-armed rival nations to the brink of war.
New Delhi submitted its dossier of evidence to Islamabad a month ago, linking the Pakistan-based outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant organization to the Feb. 14 suicide car bomb attack in the Pulwama district.
The blast killed more than 40 Indian security forces, making it the deadliest attack in the disputed Himalayan region, and dangerously escalating bilateral military tensions.
“The government of Pakistan has shared preliminary findings with the government of India after examining the Indian report on the Pulwama incident,” said a Pakistan Foreign Ministry statement.
The information was shared with the Indian high commissioner, who was called to the ministry. The statement noted that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had offered cooperation in the investigation if India provided credible evidence.
“Pakistan has acted with a high sense of responsibility and extended full cooperation. We do so in the interest of regional peace and security. We have sought further information/evidence from India to take the process forward,” it said. The ministry gave no further details, nor did it elaborate on the nature of information sought from India.
The Indian dossier contained names of the JeM chief, Maulana Masood Azhar, and several of his associates, along with “specific details of JeM’s complicity in the Pulwama terror attack and the presence of JeM terror camps and its leadership in Pakistan,” according to officials in New Delhi.
Sources privy to Pakistan’s investigation into the dossier said it listed a “few telephone numbers and WhatsApp IDs,” but those could not be linked to “the Pulwama incident.”
India has long accused Pakistan of harboring militants who stage cross-border attacks and fuel a Muslim insurgency in Kashmir – charges Islamabad rejects.
Just days after the deadly Pulwama attack, New Delhi demanded Islamabad take action against the JeM leadership and vowed to punish the neighboring country.
On Feb. 26, Indian fighter planes carried out a cross-border raid deep inside Pakistan against what it alleged were JeM training camps. Islamabad rejected the assertions as baseless and condemned the violation of its airspace by India.
Pakistan undertook a retaliatory military action the following day, shooting down an Indian aircraft in a dogfight with Pakistani planes and capturing its pilot.
Islamabad sent the Indian pilot back two days later, though the militaries of both countries have since routinely clashed along the Line of Control, which separates the Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir.
The Pakistani response fueled fears that a wider conflict could erupt between the two countries, prompting major powers such as the United States, China, Russia and other regional countries to intervene and ease the tensions.
In recent days, Pakistan has intensified a crackdown against JeM and other militant groups outlawed by the United Nations and the United States. Pakistani authorities have seized hundreds of facilities, including education institutions and health care units run by militant groups, including JeM, that India blames for plotting cross-border attacks.
Islamabad, however, insists the crackdown is not the outcome of any external pressure but an ongoing process as part of efforts to fight terrorism and extremism in Pakistan.
More than a month after Indian planes carried out cross-border airstrikes, Pakistan’s airspace remains blocked for flights to and from India. Pakistani officials cite the possibility of another “aggression” from the neighboring country for not opening the airspace.
Both countries claim the disputed territory in its entirety and have fought two of three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
The United States, Britain and France, together with India earlier this month, moved a resolution in the United Nations Security Council designating JeM chief Azhar a global terrorist.
But Pakistan’s close ally, China, blocked the move, saying it had conducted a “comprehensive and thorough evaluation” but still needed more time to consider the proposal. Beijing has previously prevented Azhar’s placement on the list of global terrorists.
Washington is said to have circulated Wednesday a new resolution, drafted with British and French support, to the 15-member UNSC to seek the blacklisting of Azhar.