Standing ovation for Abhinandan Varthaman’s parents on Chennai-Delhi flight

AFP 2018  HANDOUT  ISPR Pakistan to Release Indian Pilot on Friday as'Peace Gesture- Prime Minister

The release of Varthaman, whose warplane was shot down in the disputed region of Kashmir, was described as a "peace gesture" by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had on Friday morning said Abhinandan would be handed over to Indian officials at the Wagah-Attari border in the afternoon. The Pakistan foreign office issued a statement titled "Return of Indian POW Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman" after the handover that described it as a "gesture of peace" and said Abhinandan "while in captivity, was treated with dignity and in line with global law".

A day before Pakistan downed the Indian jet, the Indian Air Force said its jets launched airstrikes against terrorists inside Pakistan.

The Pakistani authorities got all the paper work completed to hand over the pilot to Indian High Commission officials, but the pilot's return was awaited by hubndreds of Indian visitors who had thronged the border transit point. The four cities where domestic and global flights will be allowed to and from are Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta, Pakistan's civil aviation authority said in the statement.

This week's violence marked the most serious escalation of the long-simmering conflict since 1999, when Pakistan's military sent a ground force into Indian-controlled Kashmir at Kargil.

The closure of Pakistan's airspace in response to escalating tensions with India disrupted major routes between Europe and South East Asia.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthamanhas been shown on TV, looking bruised and confused.




Pakistan - which denies any involvement in the 14 February attack - said it had no choice but to retaliate to the Indian raids with air strikes on Wednesday. "This is a New India", Prime Minister Narendra Modi, facing a tough election due by May, said Friday.

Khan, the Pakistani premier, told lawmakers on Thursday, "We are releasing the Indian pilot as a goodwill gesture tomorrow".

A spokeswoman said Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta airports would begin some flights on Friday with the remainder opening next week. The closures snarled air traffic.

Pakistan has freed an Indian fighter pilot captured after his plane was shot down in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

"Many celebrities and other important people come to Attari border on different occasions".

"India will fight as one, India will win as one", Modi said.

But while the tension has eased to some degree, with many foreign nations including the US stepping in to urge calm and push for dialogue, the two long-time foes' military forces have continued to exchange fire, mostly shelling, along the disputed border in the Kashmir region.

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