A pall of gloom has descended on the nation ever since 41 CRPF jawans were martyred in the worst terror strike in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on Thursday. The deadly attack, carried out by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), has evoked condemnation from across the globe. It was on Thursday when a JeM suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into a CRPF bus in Pulwama district, claiming lives of at least 40 personnel.
In a major diplomatic offensive against Islamabad after the attack, India held a briefing for envoys of 25 countries on Friday, including from P5 nations -- US, China, Russia, the UK and France -- to highlight Pakistan's role in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Before the briefing, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale summoned Pakistan High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood to his South Block office and issued a very strong demarche over the attack in which at least 40 CRPF personnel were killed in Kashmir's Pulwama district.
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India also revoked the most-favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan in the aftermath of the attack, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced, as the country is considering punitive actions like significant hike in customs duties, port curbs and ban on goods imported from the neighbouring country.
In a strong warning to Pakistan over the Pulwama terror attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared those responsible will pay a "very heavy price" and said the security forces have been given a free hand to decide on the timing, place and nature of their response to the carnage. Modi said the "blood of the people is boiling", adding the terror outfits and those aiding and abetting them have made a "big mistake". A befitting reply will be given to the perpetrators of the heinous attack and their patrons," asserted Modi.
The prime minister also paid his last respects to the CRPF personnel at the Palam technical area on Friday evening by placing a wreath. The bodies of the slain troopers reached Delhi's Palam air force area on Friday evening. Modi placed a wreath on a platform placed before the coffins carrying the mortal remains of the troopers.
Apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also offered tributes to the slain CRPF men.
India, on Friday evening, held a briefing for envoys of 25 countries, including from P5 nations -- US, China, Russia, the UK and France -- to highlight Pakistan's role in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Apart from the envoys of the P5, Gokhale met the envoys of key countries in Europe and Asia such as Germany, South Korea, Japan, as well as Australia, they said.
"All the Heads of Missions were left in no doubt about the role played by Pakistan based and supported JeM in the terrorist attack and our demand that Pakistan ceases forthwith all support and financing to terror groups operating from areas under their control. The foreign secretary also highlighted the role played by Pakistan in using terrorism as an instrument of its state policy," a PTI source said. The MEA will continue to take all steps to expose the complicity of Pakistan in the Pulwama terrorist attack and demand immediate and verifiable action against JeM and its leader Masood Azhar, the source added.
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, earlier in the day, also summoned Pakistan High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood to his South Block office and issued a very strong demarche. Pakistan must take "immediate and verifiable action" against the JeM and that it must immediately stop any groups or individuals associated with terrorism operating from its territories, Gokhale told the envoy.
According to PTI sources, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria has also been called to Delhi for consultations in the wake of the horrific attack. Hours after vowing to isolate Pakistan diplomatically in the wake of the attack, the government undertook the exercise of reaching out to the international community, most of which has univocally condemned the attack by the UN-proscribed Pakistan-based JeM terror outfit.
World leaders condemn attack, back India's fight against terrorism
Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday said perpetrators and sponsors of the attack should be brought to book and reiterated his country's support for further strengthening counterterrorist cooperation with India. In a message to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Putin said, "...We strongly condemn this brutal crime. The perpetrators and sponsors of this attack, undoubtedly, should be duly punished."
The US specifically singled out Pakistan in its statement condemning the attack. In a stern message to Pakistan, the White House asked Islamabad to "immediately end" its "support" to all terror groups and not to provide "safe haven" to them. "The US calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil, whose only goal is to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement."This attack only strengthens our resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation and coordination between the US and India," she said.
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China also expressed deep "shock" over the terror attack carried out by the Jaish suicide bomber. "China has noted the reports of suicide terrorist attack. We are deeply shocked by this attack. We express deep condolences and sympathy to the injured and bereaved families," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
On being asked about China's stand on the listing of Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council, he said: "As for the issue of listing, I could tell you that the 1267 Committee of Security Council has a clear stipulation on the listing and procedure of the terrorist organisations".
"JeM has been included in the Security Council terrorism sanctions list. China will continue to handle the relevant sanctions issue in a constructive and responsible manner," he said in an apparent reference to External Affairs Ministry's appeal to all members of the UN Security Council to list Azhar as a global terrorist.
China, a veto-wielding member of the UNSC and a close ally of Pakistan, has repeatedly foiled India's bid to list Azhar as a global terrorist, saying there is no consensus in the top organ of the world body on this issue.