India was allegedly preparing to fire missiles on “two or three” Pakistani cities when tensions between the two nuclear armed neighbours reached a boiling point in February, former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar claimed in an interview on the side-lines of the Astana Economic Forum, according to the Hindustan Times.
“Our information was that it was India [that was] preparing a missile attack on two or three cities of Pakistan and our only reaction was to not only inform India directly but also inform India through its friends that we would be climbing the escalation ladder, which we should avoid under all circumstances”, Khokhar said.
Pakistan’s former envoy to India, the US, and China said that there is still a certain degree of concern among people on both sides of the border that the long-existing tensions may take a “bad turn”.
Khokhar voiced hope that once the Indian elections are over, the two sides would move towards de-escalation and New Delhi “would realise that there is no other option but to engage in a serious dialogue”.
“We are ready, our approach is that we have to talk. War is not an option for either India or Pakistan”, he emphasised.
According to the Hindustan Times, India and Pakistan were on the verge of launching missiles at each other in the wake of the 27 February dogfight over the Line of Control (de facto border) when Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured after his aircraft was brought down by the Pakistani side.
However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to comment on those reports during a rally in the city of Patan last month.
"A senior American official said on the second day that Modi has kept ready 12 missiles and might attack and the situation will deteriorate. Pakistan announced to return the pilot on the second day, else it was going to be a 'qatal ki raat [a night of slaughter]. This was said by America, I have nothing to say about this now, I will speak about it when the time comes", he said.
Days before the Patan speech, he told a campaign rally in Surendrangar district that India has the “mother of nuclear bombs” and warned of an immediate retaliation.
The aerial combat came a day after the IAF carried out a strike on a suspected terror camp in Pakistan-administered Balakot in response to an attack on a convoy of Indian soldiers on 14 February that killed some 40 service members. Islamabad has denied the existence of any such bases in the area.