South Asia: Return of envoys de-escalates India, Pakistan tensions

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By Muhammad Luqman

The Indian high commissioner Ajay Bisaria, who was called back after the Pulwama attack, has returned to Islamabad, promising a dip in the war hysteria drummed up by New Delhi against Pakistan over the last three weeks.

Pakistani High Commissioner to India, Sohail Mahmood has also reached New Delhi to assume his duties.

“ The return of high commissioners of the two countries is all set to bring down the tempers in the relations; Hopefully, things will get better,” Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhary told newsmen in the eastern city of Lahore.

The timing suggested a coordinated move both by Islamabad and New Delhi, rekindling the hopes of possible improvement in ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, which were on the brink of war when India launched the so-called air strikes in Pakistan.

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 Abinandan Varthaman after 56  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.

According to English newspaper Express Tribune, 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.

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 Wagha-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.

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