NEW DELHI / ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – India's and Pakistan's sparring last month threatened to spiral out of control, and only interventions by US officials, including national security adviser John Bolton, brought about a major conflict, five known ones Sources events said.
FILE PHOTO: An Indian policeman fires a tear gas grenade at protesters on 8 May 2018 in Srinagar during a protest against the recent killings in Kashmir. REUTERS / Danish Ismail / File Photo
Once India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, Islamabad said it would react "three times" with its own missile attacks, according to Western diplomats and government sources in New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington.
The way that tensions suddenly worsened and sparked a war between the nuclear-armed nations shows that the Kashmiri region, both claiming and at the center of their enmity, continues to be one of the world's most dangerous hotspots remains.
The exchange did not go beyond threats and there was no indication that the missiles were more than conventional weapons, but they caused consternation in official circles in Washington, Beijing and London.
Reuters has assembled the events that have led to the gravest military crisis in South Asia since 2008, as well as diplomatic efforts to pull both sides to retreat.
The seething quarrel came into conflict late last month when Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were involved in a battles for Kashmir on February 27, the day after a raid by Indian jet fighters on a militant camp in Pakistan. Islamabad denied any militant camp in the area and said the Indian bombs exploded on an empty hill.
In their first clash since the last war between the two nations in 1971, Pakistan overthrew an Indian plane and captured its pilot after being ejected from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
Hours later, on social media, videos of the bloody Indian pilot, bound and blindfolded, appeared in Pakistani interrogators, which intensified the anger in New Delhi.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi held parliamentary elections in April and May, the government was under pressure to react.
That evening, Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval talked about a secure connection with Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Asim Munir to tell him that India would not resign A new "Counter Terrorism" campaign, even after the pilot was arrested, was reported by an Indian government source and a Western diplomat with knowledge of the Reuters talks in New Delhi.
Doval told Munir that India's struggle with the militant groups operating on Pakistani soil was ready to escalate, the government source said.
A Pakistani government minister and a Western diplomat in Islamabad separately confirmed an Indian threat to deploy six missiles at targets within Pakistan. They did not specify who delivered the threat or who received it, but the minister said that Indian and Pakistani intelligence services "communicate and even communicate with each other during the fight".
Pakistan stated that it would face all Indian rocket attacks with many more of its own launches, the minister told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
"We said that if you want to fire a rocket, we will fire three. Whatever India will do, we will respond to it three times, "said the Pakistani minister.
Doval's office did not respond to a request for comment. India was not aware of any missile threat that was inflicted on Pakistan, a government official told reuters.
The Pakistani military declined to comment and Munir could not be reached for comment. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request from Reuters.
The crisis spread when US President Donald Trump attempted to negotiate an agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi on his nuclear program.
US. Security adviser Bolton telephoned Doval on the night of February 27 and into the early hours of February 28, the second day of the Trump-Kim talks, to defuse the situation, the Western diplomats in New Delhi and the Indian officials said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also in Hanoi, called both sides to find a way out of the crisis.
"Secretary Pompeo has directly led the diplomatic engagement, and this has played a crucial role in the de-escalation of tensions between the two sides," said Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Robert Palladino on March 5 in Washington.
A State The department official declined to comment when asked if he knew about the threats to use rockets.
Pompeo spoke with Doval, the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Palladino said.
US. Indo-Pacific commander Admiral Phil Davidson told reporters in Singapore last week that he had been in separate contact with Indian naval chief Sunil Lanba during the crisis. Lanba's office gave no immediate answer to a question about the nature of the talks.
US. Efforts focused on securing Pakistan's rapid release of the Indian pilot and reassuring India that it would withdraw from the missile threat, said the Western diplomat in New Delhi and officials in Washington.
"We have made great efforts to persuade the international community to encourage the two sides to de-escalate the situation because we were fully aware of how dangerous it was," a senior Trump administration official said.
The Pakistani minister said China and the United Arab Emirates also intervened. China's Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for opinion. The UAE government said Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan had talks with Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
India has given no details, but said it had contact with the major powers during the conflict.
On the morning of February 28, Trump told reporters in Hanoi he was expecting an early end to the crisis.
"They tried and we tried to stop them. I hope that ends now.
Later that afternoon, Khan announced in the Pakistani parliament that the Indian pilot would be released, and was sent back the next day.
"I know there was a rocket attack on Pakistan last night that was defused," Khan said. "I know our army was ready to retaliate against this attack."
The two countries have gone to war three times since they gained independence in 1947, the last time in 1971. The two armies trade along the line of control that separates them in Kashmir, but tensions seem limited to be.
Diplomatic experts said the recent crisis has highlighted the potential for misunderstood signals and unpredictability of the links between nuclear-armed rivals and the enormous dangers. It is still not clear whether India targeted a militant camp in Pakistan and whether there were casualties, they said.
"Indian and Pakistani leaders have long been confident that they can understand each other's deterrent signals and de-escalate them as they please," said Joshua White, a former White House official now with Johns Hopkins.
"The fact that some of the most basic facts, intentions and attempted strategic signals of this crisis are still enigmatic should be a sobering reminder that none of the countries can master a crisis as soon as it starts. ".
Additional coverage by Asif Shahzad in ISLAMABAD, Phil Stewart, Mark Hosenball, Jonathan Landay at WASHINGTON, Joe Brock in Singapore and William James in London; Cut by Martin Howell and Raju Gopalakrishnan