Security officials stand guard at Jinnah International Airport after Pakistan resumed the flight operations and partially opened its airspace on Friday. Photo: IC
Pakistan returned a downed Indian pilot to Indian authorities on Friday as a peace gesture in the hope of de-escalating recent tensions between the neighboring countries.
“As a gesture of peace and to de-escalate matters, the Indian pilot who is under arrest with us will be released today in the afternoon at the Wagah border,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the parliament, Reuters reported.
Pakistani Ambassador to China Masood Khalid, told the Global Times on Friday that “We hope India will reciprocate, tone down the rhetoric of war and engage in a dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.”
“We have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to defend ourselves,” he stressed.
Tensions between the two nations escalated after a suicide car bombing killed at least 40 Indian police in the Indian-administered Kashmir on February 14. The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group, which was banned in Pakistan in 2002, had claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.
On Tuesday, India said it had launched an air strike inside Pakistan. On Wednesday, both governments claimed they downed enemy jets and the Indian pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman was captured.
International communities including China and the US called for restraint from both sides and pushed for a peaceful way to address the conflicts.
“War is never a solution to any problem between countries … We are a staunch supporter of resolving disputes through peaceful dialogue,” Khalid said in an exclusive interview with the Global Times.
He also noted that Pakistan believes in international cooperation to combat terrorism. “We have cooperated with the international community in addressing this menace and have proposed cooperative approaches to eliminate terrorism from our region,” he said.
As tensions show signs of de-escalating, Pakistan’s civil aviation authorities said four Pakistani airports resumed partial flight operations on Friday and commercial flights will fully resume on Monday.