Abhinandan Varthaman: Pakistan releases Indian pilot after plane shot down near Kashmir

by Kim Boateng Posted on March 1st, 2019

Pakistan on Friday released an India pilot captured earlier in the week after his aircraft was shot down near the disputed Kashmir region.

Pakistan said it released Wing Cmdr. Abhinandan Varthaman as a “gesture of peace” amid rising tensions between the two countries.

“Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan! The nation is proud of your exemplary courage,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

Pakistan shot down two Indian aircraft Wednesday when they crossed the Line on Control near the disputed Kashmir region. They captured Varthaman and tweeted a video of him with a blindfold and what appeared to be blood on his face.

Pakistan’s armed forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor responded with a picture of Varthama, saying he was “being treated as per norms of military ethics.”

Pakistan released Varthaman at the Wagah crossing gate.

Khan has called for talks with India in an attempt to relax tensions that have risen to heights not seen in decades between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

The last time the nations’ air forces engaged in combat was during an armed conflict in 1971.

The escalation in violence began Feb. 14 when a vehicle loaded with explosives rammed into an Indian Central Reserve Police Force convoy, killing dozens. India has blamed Pakistan for harboring Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group that claimed responsibility for the attack within its borders. Pakistan has denied any connection with the terrorist group.

Friday’s transfer came amid anti-India protests in Peshawar, Pakistan, where demonstrators burned an effigy of Modi. Islamist militant groups Jamiat Ulema-e Islam and Jamat-e-Islami called for jihad against India.

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