Pakistan’s PM says captured Indian pilot to be released Friday

World Today

A Pakistani soldier stands guard near the wreckage of an Indian plane shot down by the Pakistan military on Wednesday, in Hurran, near the Line of Control in Pakistani Kashmir, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan will release the captured Indian fighter pilot as a “peace gesture” toward India. Khan made this announcement on Thursday while addressing lawmakers in both chambers of Parliament, convened to discuss the latest situation amid rising tensions with the nuclear-armed neighbor over the disputed territory of Kashmir. (AP Photo/Abdul Razzaq)

A step towards de-escalation in the confrontation between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan. Islamabad said it will release an Indian pilot captured earlier this week. It’s meant to be a peace gesture – but India remains skeptical. CGTN’s Joshua Cartwright reports.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated ever since a suicide car bomber killed some 40 Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, India carried out airstrikes in Pakistani territory for the first time since 1971. Their target: a training camp for the militant group which had taken credit for the attack. 

Pakistan retaliated the next day, when its military downed two Indian aircraft and captured a pilot who was then paraded on video. That was branded as a ‘vulgar display’ by India, which accused Pakistan of breaching humanitarian and international laws.

World powers called on both nuclear-armed countries to show restraint. And then, on Thursday, Islamabad offered an olive branch.

“The Indian pilot is in our custody,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced. “We will release him and return him to India tomorrow as a peace gesture.”

Indian officials said they’re happy the pilot is being released, but that Pakistan is just following the Geneva Convention, and India reserves the right to carry out further strikes if necessary.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on his people to stay united. “India will live as one, India will work as one, India will grow as one, India will fight as one, India will win as one,” he said.

Villagers in the disputed region of Kashmir fear further conflict between Indian and Pakistani troops. Recent skirmishes between them have killed a handful of soldiers and civilians there.

“People are very afraid,” said one villager. “They wonder for how long these activities, like shelling, will continue. The Indian government must understand that they are sitting in Delhi but the people living in border areas are suffering a lot.”

Pakistan said India has turned over intelligence documents about this month’s suicide bombing that sparked the latest violence. For now, the two sides have reportedly stopped air strikes – but tensions on the ground continue.