New Delhi: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan after his MiG-21 was downed during an airfight between Indian Air Force and Pakistani warplanes, on Wednesday, will be released on Friday. While addressing the Pakistan National Assembly, on Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister Khan said Wg Cdr Abhinandan will be released as a “gesture of peace” in an attempt to de-escalate the rising tension between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Media reports quoting Pakistani sources said Wg Cdr Abhinandan will walk in to India from the Wagah-Atari border crossing in Punjab.
Khan said, “As a peace gesture, I announce that tomorrow (Friday), and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody.”
He said, “I address the Indian government, don’t force us for retaliation. We are prepared for any eventuality and response. I beseech India not to force us down the path of war. Our efforts to de-escalate should not be considered our weakness. We are indulging our efforts to maintain peace in the region.”
Khan claimed that he tried to call Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Wednesday evening, and he is likely to call him again to suggest that “one person be nominated from India for India-Pakistan talks.”
India had issued a strongly worded demarche to Pakistan condemning the “vulgar display” of the injured pilot in the multiple videos uploaded by the nation and had demanded his immediate and safe return.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured when his MiG-21 was shot down during an engagement with Pakistani fighter planes, which had violated Indian airspace, on Wednesday. Pakistan said their air force’s action was an attempt to show their “resolve” and “capabilities” after India carried out air raids against Jaish-e-Muhammed camps deep inside Pakistan. JeM claimed the responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack, in which a suicide bomber killed over 40 CRPF jawans.