The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has issued a travel advisory to Indian citizens to refrain from traveling to Pakistan, in what is an escalation of diplomatic pressure against the neighboring country and could be the first step by the Indian government towards military action against Pakistan for failing to crack down on terrorism against India.
The MEA was ostensibly prompted to issue this advisory after the reported detention of Indian nationals in Pakistan. The MEA said in a statement, “There have been reports in the Pakistani media that several Indian nationals have been arrested over the last two days in Lahore and Multan, and are being accused of being terrorists. Since it has also been reported in the Pakistani media yesterday that the senior police officer in Lahore was unaware of the arrest in his city, it seems that this is the work of other agencies in Pakistan that operate outside the law and civilian control. Indian citizens are therefore advised that it would be unsafe for them to travel or be in Pakistan.”
Former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan G Parthasarathy thinks this is a sign of escalation of diplomatic pressure on Pakistan and not necessarily a prelude to military action. “This is a warning for Indians after the incidents in Lahore. Pakistanis could catch Indians and accuse them of being Kasab-clones. But it is also a message to be prepared for escalation,” said Parthasarathy.
While pointing out that no such advisory was issued during the Kargil war, he did admit that it is the norm in war time. “Yes, during the ’65 and ’71 wars, these advisories were there,” he said.
These advisories come as External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee asked the US, Saudi and Chinese governments for assistance in dealing with the menace of terror. All three countries are known to have immense influence on the government of Pakistan, including the Pakistan army.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is understood to have conveyed to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal, India’s dissatisfaction over the tokenism shown in Pakistan’s treatment of those responsible for the Mumbai terror strikes.
Pakistani agencies arrested an alleged Indian spy, ‘Satish Anand Shukla’ late on Wednesday for involvement in the blast that took place in Lahore in the morning. Shukla is alleged to have worked for the Indian High Commission in London and to have been operating under the name ‘Muneer’.
The three service chiefs were also called in to brief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on defence preparedness. According to sources, the summons by the PM was scheduled with some degree of urgency, as the services headquarters were not given a rundown of the agenda in advance. “It is difficult to say what was discussed at the meeting, since the agenda was not disclosed to us,” said one source at the Ministry of Defense. However the PM is reported to have taken stock of the possible conventional military threat scenarios and counter-measures that the armed forces had in place on the borders.
On the other side the Pakistan army has reportedly canceled all leave for its personnel and deployed fresh troops on the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border with India.