In an attempt to de-escalate the rising tension between India and Pakistan, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan told the Pakistan National Assembly on Thursday that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who is currently in the custody of Pakistani Army officials, will return to India on Friday. India has been maintaining that they will not be negotiating for Wing Commander’s release.
"As a peace gesture, I announce that tomorrow (Friday), and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody," Imran Khan told the Assembly. According to reports, Imran Khan will be calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday as well.
"In our desire of peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody." - Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI pic.twitter.com/gjaaYBCzPn— PTV News (@PTVNewsOfficial) February 28, 2019
“I address the Indian government, do not force us for retaliation. We are prepared for any eventuality and response. I beseech India not to force us down the path of war. Our efforts to de-escalate should not be considered our weakness. We are indulging our efforts to maintain peace in the region,” the Pakistan Prime Minister told the Assembly.
“I want to tell this august house, Pakistan desires peace. Pakistan intends to work for poverty alleviation, investment, and job creation. We do not intend war. War is not a solution. Escalation is not the answer. If India escalates, then so shall we. This shall not bring forth any plausible solution to our issues,” Imran Khan added.
Imran Khan also stated that on Wednesday evening he "tried to call Indian PM Narendra Modi on the phone because escalation is not in our interests nor in India's." Reports add that Imran Khan is likely to call Prime Minister Narendra Modi again and suggest that one person be nominated from India for Indo-Pakistan talks. Earlier, talks between the two countries used to take place at the level of the National Security Advisor.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is in Pakistan’s custody since Wednesday. The Indian government on Wednesday confirmed that when Pakistani aircraft invaded Indian airspace on Wednesday morning, the Indian Air Force jets intercepted them and in that engagement, one MiG21 jet was lost and a pilot was missing. The pilot was later identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
Following multiple videos released by Pakistan including one that showed the pilot being beaten up by a mob in Pakistan, India on Wednesday had issued a strongly worded demarche to Pakistan condemning the ‘vulgar display’ of the injured pilot and had demanded his immediate and safe return.