India cancels 'Beating Retreat' at Attari ahead of pilot's arrival

Elena Summers
March 2, 2019

Thousands of Indians, some waving flags and singing, gathered Friday to give a hero's welcome to an air force pilot due to be returned across the border after being shot down by Pakistan.

"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. "Whatever we meant to destroy, we did", he said.

On February 26, India carried out an attack against a camp of this group in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. He will be received by a delegation of the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Wagah Border.

The President shared a word of praise for Wing Commander Varthaman on the micro-blogging website.

Air Force Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor in a joint defence press conference on Thursday showed evidence of AMRAAM air-to-air missile which was sacked from a Pakistani F-16 fighter.

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. India long has accused Pakistan of cultivating such militant groups to attack it. Pakistan has said it was not involved in that attack and was ready to help New Delhi in the investigation.

Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured when his MiG-21 among two Indian military aircraft was shot down by the Pakistan Air Force after they ventured into the Pakistani airspace.

After two tense days, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday that his country would return Varthaman as a "peace gesture".

The launch of a dialogue between Pakistan and India depends on New Delhi since Islamabad is ready to sit at the negotiating table whenever its neighbor is willing, Pakistani Ambassador to Russia Qazi Khalillulah told Sputnik on Friday.

A spokeswoman for Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority said Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta airports would begin some flights on Friday with the remainder opening next week.

Abhinanadan is likely to be handed over to the Indian authorities at Wagah border on Friday afternoon.

In the war of 1971, when the two countries fought over the liberation of Bangladesh, India had taken over 90,000 prisoners of war including many security personnel. He was then apprehended by officials of the Pakistani Army and taken into custody. The clips, which go against the Geneva Convention, showed him being assaulted by a mob in Pakistan, another of him blindfolded and tied up replying to questions, while yet another showed him sipping tea and responding to a Pakistani official's questions.

The Indian government retaliated on Tuesday with a pre-emptive air strike on militants inside Pakistan who were supposedly responsible for the suicide bombing.

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