–Sohail Mahmood crosses over to India from Wagah-Attari border as India announces return of Ajay Bisaria to Islamabad
ISLAMABAD: Days after Pakistan announced that it was sending its envoy back to New Delhi, India has also sent back its high commissioner to Islamabad on Saturday, in what appears to be yet another sign of de-escalation in tensions between the two countries.
Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, who was called back by the Indian government soon after the deadly attack, is returning on Saturday, said India’s External Affairs Ministry in a statement.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood also crossed into India from the Wagah-Attari border on Saturday to resume his diplomatic duty in New Delhi.
The timing suggested a coordinated move both by Islamabad and New Delhi, renewing hopes of possible thaw in ties between the two neighbours, which were on the brink of war when India launched the so-called air strikes in Pakistan in retaliation against the February 14 suicide attack in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK).
Islamabad hit back with cross border attacks a day later that led to a dogfight between air forces of the two countries. Pakistan shot down two Indian warplanes and captured one of its pilots.
Pakistan released Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman within 72 hours of his capture as a ‘gesture of peace.’ Prime Minister Imran Khan repeatedly offered his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to enter into the dialogue process to discuss all issues including terrorism.
Modi rejected Pakistani peace overtures. However, the return of high commissioner is the first sign that the Modi administration may be having a rethink of its strategy.
The apparent easing of tensions is attributed to the hectic behind the scene efforts by many international players to prevent further escalation in tensions. The United States in particular has been in contact both with Pakistan and India to seek de-escalation as efforts were being made to persuade India for opening direct channel of communications with Pakistan.
The standoff led to the collapse of even military-to-military communication through well-established hotline between the two countries.
Usually, the director general military operations (DGMOs) of the two countries interact once in a week. But, that hotline contact remained disabled since the current crises turned into a military standoff.
Pakistan earlier this week expressed its desire to restore that hotline contact between the DGMOs of the two countries. With the returning of high commissioners, there is a possibility that the military-to-military contact may be revived from next week.
Another positive indicator of de-escalation in tensions is that the two countries decided to meet next week on the Kartarpur Corridor initiative.
Pakistani delegation will meet the Indian officials at Wagah-Attari border on the Indian side to finalise the draft agreement on the Kartarpur Corridor on March 14.
The delegation was originally supposed to travel to New Delhi but because of the current situation they decided to meet at Wagha-Attari border instead. The India side would also pay the return visit on March 28.