Pakistan releases captured Indian pilot; confrontation cools
By Krishna N. Das and Abu Arqam Naqash
WAGAH, India/MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan handed back a captured Indian pilot on Friday as the nuclear-armed neighbors scaled back a confrontation that has prompted world powers to urge restraint, although shelling continued in the disputed Kashmir region.
Television footage showed Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman walking across the border near the town of Wagah just before 9 p.m. (1600 GMT). Indian officials confirmed he had been returned and said he would be taken for medical checks.
"While in captivity, he (Abhinandan) was treated with dignity and in line with international law," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his return "as a goodwill gesture aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India", it added, echoing Pakistan's stance this week that wants to resolve the conflict through talks.
Abhinandan's MiG-21 jet was shot down by a Pakistani fighter during a clash over Kashmir on Wednesday as two weeks of growing tensions between the two countries erupted into open hostilities.
The plane crashed on the Pakistani side of the de facto border that separates the two sides of Kashmir, a Himalayan region that has been a source of hostility between the two countries since independence from Britain in 1947.
The Indian pilot's ordeal made him a focal point of the crisis for Indians, after footage of his battered face was shown on Pakistani television and social media shortly after he was captured.
Waiting for Abhinandan's return on Friday, crowds thronged the road to the crossing, shouting nationalist slogans and waving Indian flags. The handover took place hours later than expected, for reasons that were not clear.
"Pakistan is releasing our pilot, I thank them for that," said Kulwant Singh, who has run a food stall at the crossing for 20 years. "War can never be good. War is bad for business, war is bad for our soldiers."
Before his release, Pakistani television stations broadcast video of Abhinandan in which he thanked the Pakistani army for saving him from an angry crowd who chased him after seeing him parachute to safety.
"The Pakistani army is a very professional service," he said. "I have spent time with the Pakistan army. I am very impressed."
Witnesses in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir said that after the pilot ejected from his plane he found himself facing angry villagers and ran off, firing his pistol into the air to deter them.
"During that half a kilometre run, he fired some more gunshots in the air as well, to frighten the guys but to no avail," said Muhammad Razzaq Chaudhry, 58.
"Then he jumped into a small stream. Then, he realized that he could not escape, he took out some documents and maps from his uniform and tried to swallow some, tear apart and immerse the rest."
Abdul Majeed, 40, said he was one of a number of villagers who had beaten and thrown stones at the pilot.
"Some of us did thrash him... because he had given us a tough time. But later we handed him over to the army personnel."
Amid signs the conflict may be easing, Pakistan re-opened some airports on Friday after easing airspace restrictions that had disrupted flights between Asia and Europe for several days.
But firing continued along the contested border dividing Kashmir, according to officials in both countries, with at least two killed and two wounded on the Pakistani side.
The United States and other world powers have urged restraint as tensions rose.
Pakistan's army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, discussed the situation in a telephone call with top military officials from the United States, Britain and Australia and said Pakistan would "surely respond to any aggression in self-defense", according to Pakistan's chief military spokesman.
On the diplomatic front, relations between the two countries remained strained. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi boycotted a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Abu Dhabi because his Indian counterpart had been invited to the event.
译文来源：三泰虎 http://www.santaihu.com/47141.html 译者：Jessica.Wu
KhurshidQ19 hours ago
Pakistan Prime Minister scored another diplomatic win over India by announcing the release of captured Indian pilot Abhinandan. Imran Khan is pragmatic, peace minded and more statesman like then the other leaders in the region. There should be reciprocity from the other side. Sub continent needs peace for eradication of poverty and bringing stability and prosperity. Let the war drums be drowned by peace chants. India & Pakistan share common ancestry, heritage, culture and language. They both should work together to fight poverty and extremism.
Denali20 hours ago
Imran Khan stands out with statesman like vision for this gesture
Vincent18 hours ago
i dont get what heroic action this pilot did for indian public to call him hero. I guess this is all their election stunts overstated. The tensions may not cool well because there are skirmishes as we speak after and during the release of this guy.
Oscar19 hours ago
I would love to go to Kashmir, but I try to avoid vacationing in contested regions.
Nicki17 hours ago
It was thought that India had closer ties with the US and that Pakistan was considered a terrorist host country but yet Pakistan has F-16s and returning the pilot instead of burning him alive that terrorists do.