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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
AP/PA Images An image of the pilot released by Pakistan's military.
# Conflict
Pakistan says it will release captured Indian pilot tomorrow as a 'peace gesture'
The move comes after clashes between the nuclear-armed powers ignited fears of a disastrous conflict.

PAKISTAN HAS SAID it will release a captured Indian pilot in a “peace gesture”.

The move comes after clashes between the nuclear-armed powers ignited fears of a disastrous conflict this week. 

The pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, has become the face of the crisis since he was shot down over the disputed region of Kashmir yesterday. 

“As a peace gesture we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow,” Prime Minister Imran Khan told a joint session of parliament.

Parliamentarians stamped their feet in approval at his statement, the first sign of a potential thaw after a dangerous sequence of events between the two countries sent tensions soaring.

Tit-for-tat raids across their border have alarmed world powers including China and the US, who have urged restraint.

Pakistan said it downed two Indian fighters, while India confirmed it had lost one plane and claimed it had shot down a Pakistani jet.

“I am afraid of miscalculations,” Khan said.

“We should not even think of war, especially in view of the lethality of the weapons that we have.”

However he warned that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi should not misconstrue his desire to de-escalate as “weakness”.

“India must know that we will be forced to strongly retaliate against any Indian action in the future,” he said.

The pilot’s capture sparked fears of India and Pakistan entering a cycle of retaliation and counterattacks that could spiral out of control.

Pakistan has closed its airspace indefinitely, and the army said today its troops were on high alert along the Line of Control, the de facto border that divides Kashmir.

Authorities have tightened security across the country, with hospitals on alert and leave for police and other security officials cancelled in some cities.

With anger boiling in India, Modi called on his citizens today to “stand as a wall” in the face of an enemy that “seeks to destabilise India”.

Analysts have said the pilot’s fate, and his safe release, could prove central to the neighbours pulling back from the brink.

Kashmir has been divided and disputed by India and Pakistan since 1947. The two countries have fought two of their three wars over the region.

Includes reporting from © – AFP 2019 

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