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Pakistan says will return India pilot to avoid escalation of conflict



Pakistan said it will release the pilot that it captured after shooting down an Indian plane, in what it said was a gesture to ease growing tensions between the two nuclear rivals.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, announced that he would release the pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, as a “peace gesture” to India.

Shortly after his capture, Varthaman was shown in video published by Pakistan with a bloodied face and wearing a blindfold — treatment which experts say could violate international treaties.

India and Pakistan shot down its each others’ jets on Wednesday, during which confrontation Pakistan captured Varthaman.

It was the latest clash since tensions soared between the two countries after 40 Indian troops were killed in a terrorist attack in the disputed territory of Kashmir on February 14.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in a second video released by Pakistan.
Inter Service Public Relation (ISPR) Handout via REUTERS

The country’s foreign minister previously said Pakistan would release him “if it leads to de-escalation” between the two countries, Reuters reported.

The Pakistani information ministry on Wednesday shared, but later deleted, a tweet showing him blindfolded and with blood on his face. The pilot gave his name, rank, and service number, and called his captors “sir.”

Officials later shared a second video of the pilot, that shows him drinking tea and saying that Pakistan is treating him well.

“I would like to put this on record & I would not change my statement if I go back to my country. The officers of the Pakistan Army have looked after me very well. They are thorough gentlemen,” he says in the video.

General Vijay Kumar Singh, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, described the pilot as “embodiment of a mentally tough, selfless & courageous soldier” and called for his safe return.

Read more: Thousands of flights were canceled or rerouted when Pakistan shut down its airspace after shooting down Indian jet

“During these testing times the country stands, as one, behind him & his family. Our efforts are on & under the #GenevaConvention we hope that the brave pilot would return home soon,” he said. Experts told The Washington Post that Pakistan may have violated the Geneva Convention by sharing the video that shows the pilot blindfolded.

Khan called for sensible action between the two countries at a press conference and said that India and Pakistan should “should sit down and talk.” He urged “better sense to prevail.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation on Wednesday and said India and Pakistan should sit down and talk.
Sky News

Khan said that, given the two nations’ nuclear arsenals, “my question is… can we afford miscalculation?”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not specifically mention Pakistan in his first remarks about the latest conflict on Thursday. But he did emphasise India’s military might and said that “the entire country is one and is standing with our soldiers.”

Modi said: “When our enemy tries to destabilize the country, when terrorists attack – one of their goals is that our progress should stop, our country should stop moving ahead,” CNN reported.

The US, the EU, and China, urged both countries to have restraint and to avoid any military escalation.

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