Pakistan says it will release captured Indian pilot as a ‘peace gesture’

  • The move is first step to open negotiations, said Pakistan PM Imran Khan.
  • Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian pilot, was captured in Pakistan when his plane was shot down during after a dogfight.
  • India had pressed for immediate release for the pilot.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday said it will release Indian pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, held in Pakistan custody as a gesture of peace on Friday.

Addressing the Pakistan Parliament, Khan said the move was a ‘first step’ to open negotiations with India, coming just days after the two countries engaged in an air battle for the first time since 1971, sparking fears of hostilities spiralling out of control.

Varthaman, who was flying a Mig-21, was shot down after an aerial face-off between Pakistan and India earlier this week, in the wake of air strikes by India on a terror camp in Pakistan.

The Indian government had pressed for immediate release for the pilot and had been under public pressure to bring him back after he went missing in action following in an aerial encounter between the forces of the two countries.

International pressure for both India and Pakistan had been fierce to de-escalate tensions. US president Donald Trump earlier in the day hinted that he had some ‘reasonably attractive' news that the heightened tension between the two countries might end soon.

On Wednesday, India’s Ministry of External Affairs had held meetings with a Pakistani envoy and handed over Pakistan documents containing details of Jaish-e-Mohammed's involvement in the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, which killed over 40 CRPF security personnel.
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