Pakistan Was 'Spooked' With India Aiming 9 Missiles At It, PM Modi Refused Imran Khan's Midnight Call: Book

Pakistan Was 'Spooked' With India Aiming 9 Missiles At It, PM Modi Refused Imran Khan's Midnight Call: Book

Described by Modi as the "Qatal Ki Raat" (night of bloodshed) it marked the first of the two nights that the captured Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman spent in Pakistan's custody following the India-Pakistan aerial skirmish earlier that day.

Rahul MUpdated: Monday, January 08, 2024, 05:07 PM IST
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During the night of February 27, 2019, with 9 Indian missiles aimed at Pakistan, the alarmed Pakistan government sought to defuse the situation by reaching out to then Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria. This midnight rendezvous was prompted by the desire of Pakistan's Prime Minister, Imran Khan, to engage in a conversation with PM Narendra Modi. Described by Modi as the "Qatal Ki Raat" (night of bloodshed) it marked the first of the two nights that the captured Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman spent in Pakistan's custody following the India-Pakistan aerial skirmish earlier that day.

Former diplomat spills beans in his book

Bisaria's forthcoming book, "Anger Management: The Troubled Diplomatic Relationship Between India and Pakistan," delves into the details of India's coercive diplomacy that led to Abhinandan's release two days later. As Bisaria narrates, he received a midnight call from Pakistan's High Commissioner to India, Sohail Mahmood, conveying Khan's interest in talking to Modi. However, due to Modi's unavailability at that hour, Bisaria suggested conveying any urgent message directly to him. The next day, Khan announced in Parliament the decision to release Abhinandan, mentioning his attempt to call Modi for the sake of peace.

The release, termed a peace gesture by Pakistan, appeared to be a response to the concern raised by Western diplomats, including the US and UK envoys, regarding India's serious threat to escalate the situation if harm befell the pilot. Pakistan, perceived as "genuinely spooked," had summoned these diplomats multiple times after the events of February 26. Some envoys even contacted India's foreign secretary overnight, conveying Pakistan's readiness to release Abhinandan and address the issue of terrorism outlined in India's Pulwama dossier.

US and UK envoys conveyed India's resolve to escalate crisis

Bisaria's account reveals that the US and UK envoys dismissed Pakistan's claim of a "false flag" operation, emphasising India's clear expectations and credible resolve to escalate the crisis. The book emphasizes the effectiveness of India's coercive diplomacy, with messages delivered not only to Pakistani diplomats but also to GHQ, Rawalpindi.

The narrative touches upon an interesting episode where a close friend of Khan approached Bisaria for a handshake and conversation between Khan and Modi at the SCO summit in Bishkek. This attempt aimed to convince Modi of Khan's sincerity in dealing with terrorism, hinting at kinetic military action. Modi, in a 2019 election rally, had referenced the "night of bloodshed," expressing gratitude for Abhinandan's release.

While India never officially claimed to aim missiles at Pakistan for Abhinandan's release, Bisaria unveils how the threat unsettled the Pakistani army and Khan's government. The book describes Janjua, Pakistan's foreign secretary, informing Western envoys during a meeting that India had 9 missiles pointed at Pakistan. This revelation prompted the envoys to encourage direct communication with India.

ISI gave tip-off about Al-Qaeda attack later

Bisaria's narrative discloses a phone call he received a few months later, alerting him about an imminent attack by Al Qaeda seeking revenge for the killing of its operative Zakir Musa. This tip-off, considered genuine as the attack occurred as predicted, was seen as either Pakistan avoiding another Pulwama or Bajwa attempting to improve atmospherics before the SCO Bishkek summit.

The book concludes that Khan's aggressive rhetoric against India's leadership eventually closed the door to diplomacy. Despite Bajwa's purported interest in peace, the book suggests that the army, ISI, and Pakistan corps commanders often dictated the agenda, leading to Bisaria's expulsion after India revoked J&K's special status in August 2019.

The book also reveals discussions within the Indian government preceding the Balakot airstrikes. Bisaria conveyed limited diplomatic options to Modi and Sushma Swaraj, who hinted at imminent tough action. Army Chief Bipin Rawat indicated that India's retaliatory attack would surpass the 2016 surgical strikes, emphasizing Bajwa's interest in peace but acknowledging the influence of the ISI and discontent among Pakistan corps commanders.

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