Pakistan to free captured Indian pilot in ‘goodwill gesture’

Pakistan to free captured Indian pilot in ‘goodwill gesture’

Still of man identified as Indian pilot from footage released by Pakistan.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Pakistan has pledged to release a captured Indian fighter pilot in a bid to reduce tension between the two countries over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Prime Minister Imran Khan made the announcement in an address to both Houses of Parliament, saying he tried to reach out to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday with a message of wanting to de-escalate tensions.

There was no immediate response from India, though Mr Modi had warned earlier on Wednesday that “India's enemies are conspiring to create instability in the country through terror attacks”.



It is unclear whether the release of the Indian pilot was conditional.

Mr Khan said: “We are releasing the Indian pilot as a goodwill gesture tomorrow.”

Countries around the world have called on the nations to de-escalate the tensions gripping the region of Kashmir since February 14, when more than 40 paramilitary troops were killed in a suicide bombing.

Indian responded with an airstrike on early Tuesday morning inside Pakistan – the first of its kind since the two nations’ 1971 war over the territory that later became Bangladesh.


'Pakistan's vulgar display'

There was further escalation on Wednesday when Pakistan said it had shot down two Indian aircrafts, with one of the planes crashing in the Pakistan-held part of Kashmir.

Pakistan later aired a video of a man it identified as the Indian pilot.

India acknowledged one of its MiG-21s, a Soviet-era fighter jet, was "lost" in conflict with Pakistan.

India's Ministry of External Affairs said late on Wednesday that it "strongly objected to Pakistan's vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force", and that it expects his immediate and safe return.

Kashmir has been divided but claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan since almost immediately after the two countries' creation in 1947.

They have fought three wars against each other, two directly dealing with the disputed region.

Both Indian and Pakistani officials reported small-arms fire and shelling along the Kashmir region into Thursday morning. There were no reported casualties.