In an effort to deescalate tensions with India that spiked after the Pakistan Air Force jets tried to target Indian military installations, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that his government will release the Indian Air Force pilot on March 1 as a peace gesture.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been in Pakistan Army’s custody since he landed on the other side of the Line of Control after his aircraft fell down during aerial dogfight between the air force of India and Pakistan on February 27.
Khan’s decision to release the Indian pilot came amid growing international pressure to deescalate tensions between India and Pakistan. India had conveyed in strong terms to the Pakistani side that Wing Commander Varthaman should be returned to India unharmed, and without any preconditions.
During his address to the joint session of Pakistani parliament, Mr Khan also pitched for a dialogue with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said, “I tried to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as I want to de-escalate prevailing tension between the two countries.”
“I appeal to India and Narendra Modi not to escalate the situation further. It would not be in favour of either India or Pakistan given the kind of weapons the two countries have,” said Khan. He defended the violation of the Indian airspace by Pakistan Air Force, saying that his country was forced to “retaliate” following India’s February 26 air strike against the Jaish terror camp in the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
Under pressure from the international community, Imran Khan is trying to project himself as a peace-maker and statesman. India has rejected any talks at this stage unless Pakistan creates a congenial atmosphere. New Delhi has reiterated its position that terror and talks can’t go together and has asked for immediate, credible and verifiable action against terrorists, their proxies, infrastructure and cross-border terror. The ball is now in Pakistan’s court, said sources.
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