ISLAMABAD, Feb. 28 — Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that Pakistan will release a detained Indian pilot on Friday for the sake of peace and de-escalation of tensions between the two neighbors.
Addressing a joint session of the two houses of the parliament, Khan said the Pakistani government has decided to hand over the pilot to Indian authorities as a goodwill gesture.
“In our desire of peace, 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,” Pakistani prime minister’s office also announced at twitter quoting Khan.
The Indian pilot was arrested by Pakistani ground forces in Pakistan-administered Kashmir after his fighter jet was shot down by Pakistan in Pakistani airspace on Wednesday morning.
India on Wednesday confirmed that Pakistan downed one of its fighter jets MiG-21 and the pilot had gone missing.
India also summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah in New Delhi and appealed for the safety and safe return of the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot at the earliest date.
Tensions between the two neighbors have been running high after the Feb. 14 suicide attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which killed over 40 Indian paramilitary troopers.
India blamed Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), a militant group which has been banned in Pakistan in 2002, for the attack and some Indian leaders had pointed fingers at Pakistan, which had denied the allegations.
On Tuesday Indian air forces aircraft crossed the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed area of Kashmir and claimed to have bombed a compound allegedly in the use of JeM.
In response, Pakistan said Wednesday that its air force shot down two Indian fighter jets inside Pakistani airspace and ground troops arrested a pilot of the destroyed aircraft.
Khan said he had tried to talk to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday to de-escalate the prevailing situation, but could not get any positive response.
“War is not a solution. Escalation is not the answer. If India escalates, then so shall we,” said Khan, adding that “our efforts to de-escalate should not be considered our weakness. We are indulging our efforts to maintain peace in the region.”
Khan said the war cannot bring forth any plausible solution to the issues as Pakistan desires peace to work for poverty alleviation, investment, and job creation.
Khan urged the Indian government not to force Pakistan for retaliation because “two nations with weapons of mass destruction should not divulge on the path of war,” saying “I seek peace with India.”
“Pakistan acted with caution and restraint and replied to Indian aggression only to show that we are capable of safeguarding our sovereignty,” said Khan.
The international community has urged the two countries to exercise restraint. – XINHUA