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Pakistan returns captured pilot to India

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-03-01 20:22
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Photo released by Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on March 1, 2019 shows captured Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman standing at Wagah border crossing during a handover ceremony in eastern Pakistan's Lahore. [Photo/Xinhua/ISPR]

Earlier, Pakistani authorities handed over the pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, to Indian authorities after completing the required procedure.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that "the captured Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been returned to India today," adding that he was arrested when his MIG-21 military jet crashed in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir after being shot down by Pakistan Air Force for violating Pakistani airspace on Feb 27.

"While in captivity, he was treated with dignity and in line with international law," the statement added.

India confirmed the return of the released pilot on Friday.

The Indian Air Force officer pilot entered into the Indian territory through the Wagah-Attari Border in the northern state of Punjab.

According to Indian defence sources, the Indian pilot's fighter jet was shot down by Pakistani ground forces on Feb 27 amid heightened tensions between the two countries over the past few days.

People ride motorbikes before the arrival of Indian Air Force pilot, who was captured by Pakistan on Wednesday, near Wagah border, on the outskirts of the northern city of Amritsar, India, March 1, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Following the release of the pilot, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the media that Pakistan freed the Indian pilot without setting any condition to give a message that Pakistan is a peace-loving country and a good neighbor.

"We have done what we could. We hope that India will reciprocate our peace attempt. There are many people who love peace in India, we hope they'll cooperate with us to give peace a chance," said Qureshi.

Tensions between the two neighbors have been running high after the Feb 14 suicide attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which killed over 40 Indian paramilitary troopers.

India blamed Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), a militant group which has been banned in Pakistan in 2002, for the deadly attack.

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