"We were willing to send an Indian Air Force aircraft to pick him up but Pakistan refused permission": Former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan

Cricket Warrior

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Staff member
Aug 12, 2023
In the aftermath of India's Balakot strikes, several countries offered to send special envoys and China too suggested that it could send its deputy minister to both countries to seek de-escalation but New Delhi declined the offer, says former diplomat Ajay Bisaria.

In his upcoming book, Mr Bisaria, who was serving as Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad in that period, also writes that India was willing to send an aircraft of the Indian Air Force to Pakistan to bring back Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, but the Pakistani government refused permission.

Varthaman (now Group Captain) downed a Pakistani jet on February 27, 2019, before his MiG 21 Bison jet was hit in a dogfight.

Pakistan had launched the retaliation for the Balakot airstrikes a day before. Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army and was released two days later.

"We were willing to send an Indian Air Force aircraft to pick him up but Pakistan refused permission; the optics of an Indian Air Force plane landing in Islamabad after all that had happened over the previous three days, was, of course, not acceptable to Pakistan," Mr Bisaria writes.

In his book, 'Anger Management: The Troubled Diplomatic Relationship Between India and Pakistan', he also says several countries had offered to send special envoys over to the subcontinent but this was no longer necessary.

"Even China, not to be left behind, had suggested that it could send its deputy minister to both countries to seek de-escalation. India had politely declined the offer," he says.

In the book published by Rupa, Mr Bisaria, who had a distinguished diplomatic career spanning 35 years, delves into various aspects of India-Pakistan relations since Independence.

The ties between India and Pakistan came under severe strain after India's warplanes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan on February 26, 2019, in response to the Pulwama terror attack.

Mr Bisaria says that the day after India's air strikes at Balakot, the ambassadors of the US, UK, and France were informed during a briefing by the then Pakistan foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua about a message she received from the Pakistan Army.

The message said that "nine missiles from India had been pointed towards Pakistan, to be launched any time that day".

"The foreign secretary requested the envoys to report this intelligence to their capitals and ask India not to escalate the situation. The diplomats promptly reported these developments, leading to a flurry of diplomatic activity in Islamabad, P5 capitals, and in New Delhi that night," Mr Bisaria writes.

The permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, China and France are known as P5 nations.

"One of them recommended to her that Pakistan should convey its concerns directly to India," says Mr Bisaria.

Mr Bisaria also writes that then Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to talk to his Indian counterpart.

"At around midnight I got a call in Delhi from Pakistani High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood, now in Islamabad, who said that PM Imran Khan was keen to talk to Prime Minister Modi," he says.

"I checked upstairs and responded that our prime minister was not available at this hour but in case Imran Khan had any urgent message to convey he could, of course, convey it to me. I got no call back that night," he recounts.

"The US and UK envoys in Delhi got back overnight to India's foreign secretary to claim that Pakistan was now ready to de-escalate the situation, to act on India's dossier, and to seriously address the issue of terrorism," he says.

Mr Bisaria says "Pakistan's PM would himself make these announcements and the pilot would be returned to India the next day.

He says India's "coercive diplomacy" had been effective, its expectations of Pakistan and of the world had been clear, backed by a credible resolve to escalate the crisis.

"Prime Minister Modi would later say in a campaign speech that, 'Fortunately, Pakistan announced that the pilot would be sent back to India. Else, it would have been qatal ki raat, a night of bloodshed'".

On overall regional geopolitics, Mr Bisaria writes that Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan conveyed to China that it should support Islamabad since the United States decided to back India against China, but Chinese President Xi Jinping "declared that China would not be propping up Pakistan against India".

"I also learnt that Khan had told the Chinese that they should support Pakistan since the US had decided to support India against China. President Xi Jinping apparently responded sharply to Imran Khan for this simplistic geopolitical assessment and declared that China would not be propping up Pakistan against India," he says.

"He had advised Khan that it was the US that could help Pakistan in its India relationship and it would be in Pakistan's interest to make up with the US as well as with Afghanistan," Mr Bisaria writes.

This India Pakistan conflict should've been solved by now as it is more than 76 years these nations got their independence. Whenever things start to get settled something unusual happens.
Such things should be answered by Pakistan and not left to media to speculate about.
The reality is Indian Gov does not want all this escalation to stop so that is why they refused the offers of multiple countries including China because China has some good relations with Pakistan. This thing is not going to end until both governments sit and talk.
What if said Indian Air Force aircraft had crashed as well?
Damn so not only Russia, but even China gave Imran the shut up call and told him to patch things up with USA.

What a lunatic of a leader we had......