The return of Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, set to be released shortly by Pakistan at the Wagah Border, was made possible following a series of diplomatic efforts and international manouvering.
Varthaman’s MiG 21 was shot during an aerial combat between India and Pakistan on Wednesday morning. He bailed out after bringing down one Pakistani F-16 fighter during a dogfight to repel a Pakistani attack on Wednesday morning. Since then he was in Pakistan custody.
On Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, following a Joint Session of Pakistan National Assembly, said Wing Commander Varthaman would be released as a “gesture of peace” if it leads to de-escalation of recent tensions between the two neighbour countries.
But later on, turning down Pakistan Prime Minister’s appeal to hold dialogue, the Narendra Modi Government conveyed a message that there would be “no deal” on the Wing Commander Varthaman’s release.
The Indian government also demanded the “immediate and safe return” of the pilot, adding that it “would be well-advised to ensure that no harm comes to him”.
Two days after the Indian Air Force launched air strikes in Pakistan’s Balakot area on February 26, targeting terrorist camps, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “India will live as one; India will work as one; India will grow as one; India will fight as one.”
Earlier, media reports said on Tuesday at around 3.30 am, 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets of the IAF dropped 1,000 kg bombs on terror camps of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, destroying them. The strikes, involving several fighter jets of the IAF, destroyed camps belonging to Pakistan-based terror outfits in Balakot area of the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The following day on Wednesday, Pakistan sought international community to play a role in ensuring peace with India while Prime Minister Khan invited India for talks, saying a better sense should prevail.
Meanwhile, on the international front, Pakistan was ‘appealed’ by an number of countries for resumption of peace including the United States, Russia, China, France, and United Kingdom, besides countries in the immediate neighbourhood such as Sri Lanka and Nepal as well. The European Union also weighed in with similar advice.
In a separate development, India has conveyed to the US that it will not keep quiet to any act of terrorism and giving “appropriate response” to all terrorism incidents is the new normal for the country. The message has been conveyed by India’s Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla.