Government will diplomatically pursue the release of Chandu Babulal Chavan, the Indian soldier who crossed over into PoK on September 29, the day Indian Army’s surgical strikes took place on terror launch pads across LoC. Until now only the Indian army DGMO (Director General of Military Operations), Ranbir Singh, had sought Chavan’s release from his Pakistan counterpart. Official sources told TOI since the Pakistan army had not responded to the plea that Chavan be released, the government felt it was important that the matter be taken up with the Pakistan foreign ministry.
MEA had so far kept away from Chavan’s case, allowing the army to handle the situation. Chavan was posted in the Mendhar sector in J&K when he was reported missing hours after the surgical strikes. On October 2, defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said that a ‘well established mechanism through the DGMO’ had been activated to seek Chavan’s release. He had also said that since the situation was tense, it would take some time to bring him back.
India has denied any link between the surgical strikes and the disappearance of Chavan. The army has asserted that such inadvertent crossings by soldiers and civilians are not unusual and that there are existing mechanisms to ensure their return. The army had hoped that Pakistan would return Chavan, a resident of Dhule in Maharashtra, despite the military standoff. “Now that there is no response from the Pakistan army, the matter is being strongly taken up with the Pakistan foreign ministry,” said a source.
Chavan’s family had earlier expressed fear that he might be tortured while in custody. “We are worried they will torture him, and tell him lies that the army doesn’t care about him. That could drive him to take his own life,” Bhushan Chavan, the captured soldier’s brother and a soldier of Maratha Light Infantry, told TOI.