Prime Minister Narendra Modi, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and the foreign office condemned the attacks and offered sympathies without lacing their statements with a sting that has marked most past responses to terror strikes in Pakistan.
Modi telephoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif late last evening to offer condolences. In his conversation with Sharif, Modi described the assault as “not only an attack against Pakistan, but an assault against the entire humanity”.
“It is a senseless act of unspeakable brutality that has claimed lives of the most innocent of human beings — young children in their school,” Modi tweeted earlier in the day, as Pakistan’s armed forces were battling seven terrorists inside the Peshawar school. “My heart goes out to everyone who lost their loved ones today. We share their pain and offer our deepest condolences.”
India’s foreign office — very often the Prime Minister too — routinely condemn terror attacks abroad, including in Pakistan, offer commiserations, and at times, even intelligence support or resources.
But India’s official responses to terror acts in Pakistan are often also an opportunity for New Delhi to send a message to Islamabad, and key nations across the world. New Delhi, on these occasions, reminds them that the very tool of extremist terrorism, reared by Pakistan as a strategic tool against India, bites back at Islamabad.
A statement issued by the foreign office just a month back, after the terror attacks in Wagah in Pakistan bore that stamp.
“We believe that the firmest and most comprehensive action against all terror groups without any distinction is the only way to defeat this evil scourge,” the ministry of external affairs statement on November 3 had said, after condemning the attacks.
India has long argued for a United Nations Comprehensive Convention against Terrorism that bars nations from distinguishing between terrorists based on their strategic goals, and punishes countries that support any terror group. Pakistan and several other Islamic states are demanding that the convention draw a distinction between terrorists and “freedom fighters” — a term they use to describe militants in Kashmir.
But on Tuesday, the foreign office, too, skipped any reference to its traditional allegations against Pakistan. “No words will capture the feeling of deep revulsion and horror we feel about this terror attack against innocent children,” foreign office spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
The foreign minister had invited several parliamentarians home for dinner, but at 6pm, changed her mind. “In view of the massacre of innocent children in Pakistan, tonight’s dinner hosted by me for Members of Parliament is hereby cancelled,” Sushma tweeted.
Congress tempers stand
The Congress appealed to the global community to join hands in crushing exporters of terrorism in Pakistan. But Sonia Gandhi and Rahul issued much sober statements.
Although the party’s official statement by spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said “we are with the Pakistani government in this hour of crisis”, it focused on dismantling of terror hubs and asked Islamabad to understand “terrorists were nobody’s friend and enemy of the society”.
He also reminded Pakistan of the need to act against Masood Azhar, Haifiz Sayeed, and Dawood Ibrahim.
Rahul, however, said: “Deeply shocked at the barbaric killing of schoolchildren by terrorists in Peshawar…. We stand united with the people of Pakistan in their resolve to fight the menace of terrorism.”
Congress president Sonia said: “Strongly condemn the dastardly killing of innocent schoolchildren…. This barbaric act has caused universal outrage and painfully underscores the threat posed by organised terrorist groups to humankind.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SANJAY K. JHA
- The Telegraph, Calcutta