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Pakistan will release Indian pilot Friday as 'peace gesture'

02 March 2019

Addressing a joint press conference along with the Indian Army and the Indian Navy on Thursday, Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor had said, "We are happy that our pilot, who had fallen across the Line of Control and was in custody of Pakistan, is being released".

China on Friday hailed as a "goodwill signal" the Pakistani premier's announcement to release captured Indian pilot, according to Indian media reports. "[But] do not confuse our desire for de-escalation as [our] weakness", Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told his parliament.

Both India and Pakistan are believed to possess more than 100 nuclear warheads each and have conducted atomic weapon tests. Going forward, Indian officials said they would strike targets including those inside Pakistan territory if officials receive intelligence of attacks being planned.

India had issued a strongly-worded demarche to Pakistan objecting to the "vulgar display" of the injured pilot and had demanded his immediate and safe return.

India has always been saying that Azhar is in Pakistan and has been asking Islamabad to act against him and his group, which he formed after his release in a hostage swap after the 1999 Indian Airlines flight 814 hijack.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn't immediately respond to Khan's remarks, or comment on Pakistan saying Khan had tried to reach out to him over the phone on Wednesday.

Pakistan's civil aviation authorities said they had allowed some flights to depart on Thursday.

This development comes at a time when India and Pakistan - both nuclear-armed nations - are caught amidst escalated tensions.

Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a February 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops.

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They included three members of the same family - a mother and two children - when a mortar shell pulverised their house in Poonch district late Friday, police said. All but one were over Kashmir.

The IAF pilot, defence forces said, shot down the jet which was on a mission to attack Indian military base.

"We lost only one MiG-21 that was hit after it destroyed one of Pakistan's F-16 that had entered into Indian airspace", he said. The parliamentary panel asked the government to "go all out to explain" to the global community the reasons behind India's decision to carry out the air strike on Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp, PTI reported quoting unidentified officials. This can be deemed as the first official acknowledgement of India's allegation that Pakistan harbours the terror mastermind.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated the PM Imran on his statesman-like offer to India for de-escalating tensions and working towards peace.

"The decision to hand over Wing Commander Abhinandan is a great gesture and shouldn't be seen in isolation".

"Pakistan is releasing our pilot, I thank them for that", said Kulwant Singh, who has run a food stall at the crossing for 20 years.

"What I said in my speech was I criticized Modi and I will continue to do so".

"Our leadership should reciprocate", she tweeted.

But fresh violence raged in Kashmir, with seven people killed in the Indian-administered part of the tinder-box territory, suggesting that the crisis may not be over yet.

Pakistan will release Indian pilot Friday as 'peace gesture'