News18 Daybreak | Pakistan to Return Captured IAF Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman Today and Other Stories You Need to Watch Out For

Mar 01, 03:39 AM

Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman will be returned to India today after being in Pakistan’s custody for two days. In an address to the parliament, Pakistan PM Imran Khan announced that they would release the Wing Commander as a gesture of peace.

"In our desire of peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody," Khan said on Thursday.

The Wing Commander had been detained by the Pakistani side on Wednesday following a fierce aerial engagement between the two sides along the Line of Control. The Wing Commander’s MiG-21 was shot down after he engaged Pakistani jets that had violated Indian airspace.

As hostilities between the two countries continue to peak, representatives of the Indian Air Force, Army and Navy in a joint press conference on Thursday showed evidence of the neighbouring country’s air force using F16 planes to target “military installations” near the LoC.

Pakistan had earlier claimed that F-16 jets were not a part of the operation—as any such admission would mean a violation of the sale conditions laid down by the US during the procurement of the F-16s.

However, in the press conference the Indian Air force presented evidence of the use of Amraam missile, which can only be mounted on F-16.

Displaying the wreckage of the missile as a proof, Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor said that “there is enough evidence to show that F-16s were used in this mission and Pakistan is trying to hide this fact.”

This was the first official briefing by the Indian defence establishments since the hostilities broke out between the two countries.

Global pressures: The announcement of the release came just hours after US President Donald Trump said he received “reasonably decent” news from India and Pakistan, hinting that Washington’s behind the scenes mediation efforts had worked.

"They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop," Trump said on Thursday. "We have been in the middle trying to help them both out."

Meanwhile, Russia also gave their two pence on the brewing conflict with President Vladimir Putin calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to express his deep condolences over the Pulwama terrorist attack. Putin also conveyed the solidarity of his country with New Delhi in its fight against terror. Modi thanked Putin for Russia's steadfast support for India's efforts to protect its interests against cross-border terror attacks, a statement from the Prime Minister's Office said.

What next: The two rivaling sides might lock horns again, this time in the OIC meet today which External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is slated to attend. After initial statements of boycotting, Pak Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed that he will be attending the meeting too.

It also remains to be seen how the Wing Commander’s return, likely to take place today afternoon, will be facilitated. Although, a delegation of IAF team will on Friday receive Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, it is not clear whether Varthaman will be handed over to the International Red Cross or to the Indian authorities by Pakistan.

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, who is touring border areas of his state, on Thursday had expressed his desire to go and receive the pilot.

“It will be a honour for me to go and receive him, as he and his father are alumnus of the NDA as I am (sic)," tweeted Amarinder.

The Centre is yet to respond to the Singh’s request offer.

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