Indian soldier Chandu Chavan, who inadvertently strayed across the Line of Control hours after the surgical strike on terror camps in September last year, was handed over to the Indian authorities by Pakistan at Wagah border. Earlier today, as a ‘gesture of goodwill’, Pakistan Army announced that it would return Indian soldier Chandu Babulal Chavan who had accidentally strayed across the border last year. Chavan, posted with 37 Rashtriya Rifles battalion, had “inadvertently crossed over” from his post on the LoC on September 29, hours after the surgical strikes by Indian forces on terror launch pads across LoC. The Army maintains that Chavan’s battalion was not part of the surgical strikes and the 22-year-old crossed over from the LoC in Mendhar sector after a tiff with his superior at the post.
In a tweet however, Pakistan claimed the soldier had ‘willfully crossed LOC’ on September 29, 2016, a day after the Indian army conducted surgical strikes across the LoC. The Pakistani statement also claimed the soldier had surrendered himself to the Pakistani army after deserting his post at LoC due to grievances of maltreatment against his commanders.
Although Army officials informed their Pakistani counterparts about Chavan’s crossing over on September 29, Pakistan army formally acknowledged him being in its custody on October 13. Beyond established norms for individuals crossing the LoC, the two countries are also bound by Geneva Conventions on dealing with enemy soldiers in their custody.
Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre had said in November last year, “He hails from my constituency. We are in constant touch with his family. Talks are on at the level of the Director General of Military Operations, and also through the Ministry of External Affairs and diplomatic channels. One positive thing is that they have accepted that Chandu Chavan is with them. They will have to send back Chavan some day… the question is when.” He added, “The neighbour is hostile. We are sure that Chavan will be back when the situation comes back to normal. The efforts are on at all levels.”
Chavan, 22, hails from Borvihir village in Dhule district that falls under Bhamre’s Lok Sabha constituency.
In September, Pakistani newspaper Dawn had quoted security sources saying that Pakistan military had said it had captured an Indian soldier and he had been shifted to an undisclosed location. It had also said the soldier was caught after the Indian military fired across the Line of Control (LoC). Dawn later withdrew the story.
—With IANS and PTI inputs.