Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is focused on de-escalating tensions between India and Pakistan and urged them both to avoid further military action, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, without saying if he had spoken with his counterparts from either nation.
In a statement, the Pentagon said Shanahan had spoken with senior US military officials about the situation.
“Acting Secretary Shanahan’s focus is on de-escalating tensions and urging both of the nations to avoid further military action,” the statement added.
Pakistan and India said yesterday they had shot down each other's warplanes, in a dramatically escalating confrontation that has fuelled concerns of an all-out conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.
WHAT STARTED THIS LATEST TENSION?
On February 14, a suicide car bomber attacked a paramilitary convoy on the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir in the Himalayas, killing more than 40 troops. The militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack. The suicide bomber was from Indian Kashmir. New Delhi long has accused Pakistan of cultivating such groups, something denied by Islamabad. India launched an airstrike on Pakistani territory early Tuesday that New Delhi called a pre-emptive strike against militant camps in Pakistan. India said its bombs killed a “very large number” of militants, while Pakistan said there were no casualties in an airstrike it described as being carried out “in haste.”
WHY IS THIS TENSION SO DANGEROUS?
Both India and Pakistan are believed to possess more than 100 nuclear warheads each and have conducted atomic weapon tests. Both countries have test-fired nuclear-capable missiles. Pakistan also has refused to renounce a first-strike option with its atomic bombs should it feel outgunned in a conventional war. It takes less than four minutes for a missile fired from Pakistan to reach India. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists warns that “computer models have predicted that the physical impacts of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, or even a single strike on a large city, would be devastating and would reverberate throughout the world.”