Will Pakistan fight India
Pakistan wants to defuse conflict with India and release Indian pilot
Following the escalation of the conflict with India, the Pakistani government is trying to defuse the situation.
Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday that a captured Indian fighter pilot would be released as a "gesture of peace". The pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was taken prisoner in Pakistan on Wednesday when both countries deployed their air forces over the disputed Kashmir region. In India he is already revered like a hero.
A military confrontation between India and Pakistan broke out in Kashmir on Wednesday. Pakistan said it shot down two Indian fighter jets. India confirmed the loss of an aircraft and in turn reported the downing of a Pakistani fighter plane.
Khan said in parliament in Islamabad that the captured pilot will be released on Friday. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said the pilot was "safe and fine" in Pakistan.
Abhinandan's capture had caused great outrage in India. Video footage shows the pilot being beaten and dragged along by a group of men until Pakistani soldiers intervene.
The Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal spoke on Thursday of a "breakdown" and pointed out that Abhinandan had been picked up by civilians. In the meantime he is fine again.
The Pakistani military distributed a video showing the pilot drinking tea. He has swelling and bruises on his face, but otherwise looks calm and collected. He thanks for the rescue from the mob and for the "fantastic" tea.
It was initially unclear whether his statements were forced. Indian television did not show the recordings and the government in New Delhi criticized them as "tasteless". Even Bollywood stars like the actor Emraan Hashmi campaigned for the pilot to be released.
The renewed conflict between arch-rivals and nuclear powers India and Pakistan revolves around the disputed Kashmir region and alleged terrorist support. India reportedly flew air strikes in Pakistan on Tuesday and fired at a camp of the Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed near the city of Balakot. The group claimed an attack that killed 41 Indian security guards two weeks ago.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on his compatriots to stand firm against Pakistan in a martial speech on Thursday. Modi spoke of an "enemy who wanted to destabilize India". "Every Indian should oppose these goals like a wall, like a rock," said the head of government. India will "fight as one and win as one".
Khan warned, "We shouldn't even think about war, especially given the lethality of our weapons." He also warned Modi against interpreting his efforts to de-escalate as a "weakness". Pakistan sees itself "forced" to take decisive countermeasures against India in the future.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been strained since independence from Great Britain in 1947. Since the division of the subcontinent, India and Pakistan have waged three wars against each other, the Kashmir region in particular remained controversial. Since 1989, several Muslim rebel groups have been fighting, partly for the independence of Kashmir, partly for the connection of the region to Pakistan. (AFP)
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