Former Indian high commissioner of Pakistan Ajay Bisaria offers the inside story of how India’s post-Pulwama coercive diplomacy spooked Pakistan, forcing it to rethink its terror policy
In his new book, Anger Management: The Troubled Diplomatic Relationship Between India and Pakistan, ex-Indian high commissioner Ajay Bisaria reveals how India’s post-Pulwama coercive diplomacy spooked Pakistan, forcing it to rethink its terror policy. The Pakistan government — on high alert, with nine Indian missiles reportedly pointed at them — reached out to Ajay Bisaria, the then Indian high commissioner, to facilitate a conversation between Imran Khan and PM Narendra Modi.
The night in question, described later by Modi himself as the “qatal ki raat” (night of bloodshed), was the night of February 27, 2019, the first of the two that the captured Indian wing commander, Abhinandan Varthaman, spent in Pakistan’s custody after the India-Pakistan aerial dogfight earlier in the day.
Former diplomat Ajay Bisaria pens down in his book how PM Modi declined to take a call from former Pakistan PM Imran Khan after the Balakot strike.
In the aftermath of Balakot airstrike in 2019, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan was keen on talking to Prime Minister Narendra Modi but the latter declined Khan’s midnight call, says former diplomat Ajay Bisaria. In his upcoming book, Bisaria, who was serving as Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad when the Balakot strike took place on January 26, 2019 also wrote 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, who is now a Group Captain, had shot down a Pakistani jet on February 27, 2019 before his MiG 21 Bison jet was hit in a dogfight.
In his book, ‘Anger Management: The Troubled Diplomatic Relationship Between India and Pakistan’, Bisaria has penned down how PM Modi declined a midnight call by Imran Khan after the Balakot strike, reported PTI. On January 26, 2019, India’s warplanes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan, in response to the Pulwama terror attack.”
A day after India’s airstrikes at Balakot, Pakistan foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua informed the ambassadors of the US, UK, and France during a briefing 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,” Bisaria writes.
The permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia, the US, UK, China, and France are collectively known as P5 nations.
Bisaria says one the ambassadors recommended Janjua that Pakistan should convey its concerns directly to India.
“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.
He further says that the US and UK envoys in Delhi got back overnight to the India’s foreign secretary and claimed that Pakistan was ready to de-escalate the situation, act on India’s dossier and seriously address the issue of terrorism.
“Pakistan’s PM would himself make these announcements and the pilot would be returned to India the next day,” says Bisaria.
“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’,” Bisaria writes further.