ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan will release a captured Indian pilot on Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan told a joint session of parliament Thursday, in an overture towards New Delhi after soaring tensions fueled fears of conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.
“As a peace gesture we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow,” Khan said, a day after Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was shot down in a rare aerial engagement between the South Asian neighbors over the disputed region of Kashmir.
Pakistan initially said it downed two Indian jets in its airspace and captured two pilots, but later its military spokesman tweeted that there was “only one pilot” in Pakistani custody.
India’s foreign ministry had demanded the “immediate and safe return” of the pilot, calling on Pakistan to ensure no harm comes to him.
New Delhi also confirmed the loss of one of its planes and said it had shot down a Pakistani fighter jet.
In a sign of the deepening crisis, Pakistan closed its airspace “until further notice.” At least six airports were shuttered in India, and a vast area north of New Delhi was closed to civilian flights.
“We do not want to go towards war,” Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told a press conference Wednesday.
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.