China hails Pakistan's move to release Indian pilot

Saul Bowman
March 2, 2019

Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was welcomed by the country exuberantly. Going forward, Indian officials said they would strike targets, including those inside Pakistani territory, if officials receive intelligence of planned attacks.

Pakistan's decision to release the pilot followed calls by world leaders for Islamabad and New Delhi to de-escalate tensions, including from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

But Indian officials could be sceptical - having raised these concerns before. "We want peace and stability in the region", Qureshi told CNN.

Earlier in the day, the road on the Indian side of the border had been lined with well-wishers, but by the time Varthaman crossed around 9 p.m. majority had left.

Indian and Pakistani forces are engaged in a heavy exchange of fire at as many as eight different locations along the Line of Control separating the two countries' forces in Kashmir, multiple informed sources have told Sputnik.

The foreign secretary also informed the members on how India got the support of the members of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the issue where External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is a "Guest of Honour". They did not speak to the media and had requested privacy.

India and Pakistan have fought three full-blown wars - in 1965, 1971 and 1998. Crowds began gathering on the Indian side on Friday to welcome the pilot, whose parents had travelled to Amritsar, the Indian city nearest to the crossing, on Thursday night.

The Maharaja of Kashmir, the local ruler, acceded to India as tribal fighters from Pakistan launched attacks.

Sports persons, including top former and current cricketers such as Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli took to Twitter to welcome Abhinandan Varthaman.

According to a statement sent to the Global Times by the North China Air Traffic Management bureau, the Beijing Capital International Airport cancelled all flights to and from Pakistan on Wednesday and Thursday, including connecting flights.

This move came after Pakistan violated Indian air space and in the air war between two forces, India lost its one aircraft and a pilot.

His health has been in question for past few days after footage emerged of him looking bloodied and bruised being paraded around by Pakistan's army shortly after his capture.

"We have captured a pilot of India".

When asked if Azhar was in Pakistan and if authorities would go after him in the wake of the escalation of tensions, Qureshi replied: "Well he is in Pakistan".

Pakistan prepared to release a captured Indian pilot on Friday in a "peace gesture" aimed at de-escalating tensions with its nuclear arch-rival over the disputed region of Kashmir. India had also taken a tough stance, refusing to negotiate his release.

They were immediately pushed back by Indian jets on air patrol, who also shot down a Pakistani F-16 whose wreckage fell on the other side of the LoC.

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