Nirupama Subramanian

Indian and Pakistani militaries trying to bring down tensions

ISLAMABAD: In a sign that the Indian and Pakistani militaries may be attempting to bring down tensions over reports of troop movement and mobilisation, the heads of military operations of both countries spoke to each other over their telephone hotline on Sunday.

“Yes, they spoke to each other today [Sunday],” Major-General Athar Abbas confirmed to The Hindu but said he had no more details. The Indian Director-General Military Operations (DGMO) and his Pakistani counterpart hold a scheduled weekly conversation on their hotline every Tuesday.

Asked about Sunday’s unscheduled interaction, Maj-Gen Abbas said the DGMOs spoke “whenever there is a requirement to talk.” He declined to comment on whether the contact was meant to defuse the tensions of the last three days over reports that India was engaged in a troop build-up along its border with Pakistan.

The spokesman only said that “whenever the communication remains open, it is always a positive sign.” Diplomatic observers also said it was a “good” sign that the two militaries were using an established mechanism to talk to each other.

The contact between the two senior military officials – on the Indian side a Lieutenant-General and a Major-General on the Pakistani side – came two days after Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal conveyed to Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir that the reports of troop mobilisation by India were baseless.

According to diplomatic sources privy to the meeting, the Indian envoy, recalling that the Pakistani DGMO had spoken to his Indian counterpart over the alleged violation of Pakistani airspace by the Indian Air Force, pointed out that Pakistan could have used the same mechanism to verify reports of the Indian troop mobilisation.