Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday said that his country would respond in self-defence to any act of unprovoked aggression by the Indian military.
According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the army chief said this in his telephonic communication with the commanders of the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), UK Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), and the Australian Chief of Defence Force (CDF), as well as the ambassadors of the US, UK, and China in Pakistan.
DG ISPR Major-General Asif Ghafoor said the “prevailing standoff between Pakistan and India and its impact on peace and stability in the region and beyond” was discussed in the telephonic communication.
“Pak shall surely respond to any aggression in self defence,” the Chief of Army Staff was quoted as saying.
India and Pakistan are amidst their biggest standoff in many years, with the United States and other global powers mediating to de-escalate tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbouring countries.
The army chief’s statement came as Pakistan was set to release captured Indian air force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman as a gesture of peace towards New Delhi and a de-escalation effort in favour of regional peace.
IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured when his MiG-21 was among two Indian military aircraft shot down by Pakistan Air Force after they violated the Line of Control (LoC).
The move to release the pilot was announced Thursday by Prime Minister Imran Khan at a joint session of Parliament, a day after Pakistan shot down two Indian aircraft that had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and captured Wing Commander Abhinandan.
On Tuesday, Indian warplanes dropped bombs at a hilly forest area near the northern Pakistani town of Balakot, about 40 km from the border with India.
‘De-escalation efforts should not be considered weakness’
Addressing the joint session of Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged India not to escalate the situation as he announced to free the captured Indian pilot.
“Don’t take this any further, Pakistan will be forced to retaliate,” he warned, noting that the de-escalation efforts made by Pakistan should not be considered as weakness.
“Despite us opening the Kartarpur corridor, we received no response from India,” he said.
“When the Pulwama attack happened, we were blamed within 30 minutes,” the premier lamented. “I asked them to share evidence.”
“We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner. […] I had said that if India does something then we will respond.”