Pakistan frees captured Indian pilot
Published: 10:19 PM, 1 March 2019 Updated: 10:30 PM, 1 March 2019
Pakistan on Friday released captured Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman as a gesture of peace towards New Delhi and an effort to de-escalate tensions between the two countries.
"Wing Commander Abhinandan, Indian POW, returned to India today, as committed by PM Khan in his address to joint sitting or parliament, yesterday," Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal tweeted.
Rangers officials handed over the captured pilot to Indian officials at Wagah border crossing.
IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured when his MiG-21 was among two Indian military aircraft shot down by Pakistan Air Force after they violated the Line of Control (LoC).
The move to release the pilot was announced Thursday by Prime Minister Imran Khan at a joint session of Parliament, a day after Pakistan shot down two Indian aircraft that had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and captured Wing Commander Abhinandan.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi earlier today confirmed Wing Commander Abhinandan will be handed back to Indian officials at the Wagah border crossing on Friday afternoon.
"As the prime minister has said, as a peace gesture and to de-escalate matters, the Indian pilot will be released. So today, this afternoon, he will be released at Wagah," Qureshi told a joint session of parliament Friday.
The Wagah crossing gate is famed for hosting an elaborate daily ceremony by Indian and Pakistani soldiers at sundown. Thousands of people had already gathered on the Indian side early Friday to welcome the pilot home, an AFP journalist said.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj earlier commented that "India does not wish to see further escalation of the situation". Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to make a public comment.
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