Pakistan to Release Captured Indian Fighter Pilot as 'Peace Gesture'

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This latest wave of tension between the two rivals first began after the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for a February 14 suicide bombing on Indian paramilitary forces on the Indian side of Kashmir that killed more than 40 troops.

Tensions escalated rapidly following a suicide vehicle bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir on February 14. A military spokesman said that two aircraft were shot down and it was also claimed that Pakistan Army had captured two Indian pilots, but later, it was revised to one plane and one pilot.

Following this on Thursday, the Pakistan government announced that the IAF pilot would be released on Friday as a "gesture of peace".

"Flights to Pakistan have undergone major changes in recent days and the CAAC reminded passengers to check flight information before they make plans", the notice said.

Indian jets entered Pakistani airspace Tuesday for the first time since 1971, when the two countries went to war to destroy what they said were JeM's training camps in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

"We are fully prepared and in a heightened state of readiness to respond to any provocation from Pakistan", Mahal said at a news conference in New Delhi.

Abhinandan ended up in Pakistani custody on Wednesday, February 27, following air combat between India and Pakistan.

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Residents of the Pakistani border town of Chikhoti reported heavy shelling overnight and Friday morning. "Pakistan follows a legal process and will have to fulfill those requirements if action is to be taken against Masood Azhar", he was quoted as saying.

Diplomatic sources said they expected Abhinandan to be handed over to India at around 3.00-4.00 pm (1000-1100 GMT).

Following multiple videos released by Pakistan including one that showed the pilot being beaten up by a mob in Pakistan, India on Wednesday had issued a strongly worded demarche to Pakistan condemning the "vulgar display" of the injured pilot and had demanded his immediate and safe return.

What have India and Pakistan said?

"For flights that are going to depart this evening, we will call an urgent meeting to consider the impact of such events".

Images then circulated of his capture were both condemned for what appeared to be a physical attack at the hands of residents in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, and praised for the actions of the Pakistani soldiers who intervened to create a barrier. Both claim it in full and have fought two wars over the Himalayan territory.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has admitted that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar is in Pakistan and is "very unwell", adding that Islamabad is open to "any step" that will lead to a de-escalation of tensions with India.

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