Pakistan says will free Indian pilot as ‘peace gesture’

Source:AFP Published: 2019/2/28 21:43:45

Pakistan said Thursday it will release a captured Indian pilot in a "peace gesture," taking a step toward rapprochement as clashes between the two nuclear-armed rivals ignited fears of a disastrous conflict.

The pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, has become the face of the crisis since he was shot down in a rare aerial engagement between the South Asian neighbors over the disputed region of Kashmir on Wednesday.

"As a peace gesture we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow," Prime Minister Imran Khan told a joint session of parliament.

Parliamentarians stamped their feet in approval at his statement, the first sign of a potential thaw after a dangerous sequence of events between the two countries sent tensions soaring.

Tit-for-tat raids across their hair-trigger border have alarmed world powers including China and the US, who have urged restraint. 

Pakistan has said it downed two Indian fighters, while India confirmed it had lost one plane and claimed it had shot down a Pakistani jet.

"I am afraid of miscalculations," Khan said. "We should not even think of war, especially in view of the lethality of the weapons that we have."

However he warned that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi should not misconstrue his desire to de-escalate as "weakness."




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