Pakistan releases captured Indian pilot; confrontation cools

Pakistan releases captured Indian pilot; confrontation cools

People celebrate before the release of Indian Air Force pilot, who was captured by Pakistan on Wednesday, in a street in Ahmedabad, India, March 1, 2019.

On Thursday Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said the pilot's release was a "peace gesture" to India.

The defence ministry officials had earlier said that the Indian Air Force pilot was ill-treated by the Pakistan Army in violation of the Geneva convention.

The pilot was captured after Pakistan shot down two Indian Air Force planes in its airspace in Kashmir on Wednesday, a military spokesman said.

On the Indian side of the border, officials greeted the pilot who was in a dark blue suit, accompanied by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The pilot was shot down over Kashmir on Wednesday, after a dogfight in the skies over the disputed Himalayan region that sent tensions between the two countries to their highest levels in years.


It said it also foiled an attack by Pakistan warplanes over Kashmir and shot down one Pakistani plane.

On Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister told the Pakistan National Assembly that Wing Commander Abhinandan will be released on Friday as a 'peace gesture and as a first step to open negotiations.' Pakistan's move to release the IAF pilot followed massive pressure from the global community including the US, UAE and Saudi Arabia. He wrote to the Indian prime minister, saying "let the two foreign ministers meet on the sidelines in NY so that they can chart a way forward". He was then apprehended by officials of the Pakistani Army and taken into custody.

Turkey will not only help Pakistan and India resolve their standoff but will facilitate the attainment of a durable peace in the region, Pakistan's ambassador to Turkey said Thursday.

India's MiG-21-93 fighters, eventually named MiG-21UGP Bison, were upgraded to be equipped with a new radar, wider range of weapons, modern indicators on the windshield, helmet-mounted sights and multifunctional display screens in the cockpit.

India-Pakistan ties have deteriorated following a terrorist attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on February 14, which killed 40 jawans. A day later, the Pakistani military reported shooting down two Indian aircraft.

"[But] do not confuse our desire for de-escalation as [our] weakness", Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told his parliament.


India has half a million troops in the part it administers, with militants - backed by Islamabad, according to New Delhi - fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Pakistan said the Indian operation was a failure that did not kill anyone.

India on Thursday told Pakistan that it has to take concrete steps against the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group before they could engage in talks.

Pakistan military had released a video statement of captured Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan.

India has banned a largest political and religious group in Indian-held Kashmir in an ongoing crackdown against rebels seeking the end of Indian rule in the disputed region.


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