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28 Feb, 2019 09:26

Pakistan minister says Islamabad ready to return pilot to ease India tension – local TV

Pakistan minister says Islamabad ready to return pilot to ease India tension – local TV

Islamabad is ready to hand over a pilot captured after an Indian jet was downed over Kashmir if the move will help defuse tensions which have pushed the neighbors close to war, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister has said.

“If there is de-escalation with the return of this [Indian] pilot, Pakistan is willing to consider this. We are ready for all positive engagement," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was quoted by Pakistani Geo TV on Thursday.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is also willing to talk to Indian premier Narendra Modi “to extend an invitation of peace,” the top diplomat said. The Indian side is yet to respond to the offer. Claiming Islamabad has been calling for peace since the outbreak of hostilities, Qureshi said, “If India wants to talk about terrorism then we are ready.”

Also on rt.com Niece of former Pakistan PM Bhutto calls for release of captured Indian pilot

Taking a more combative tone, the minister accused India of risking regional stability, saying “history will not forgive you” if a conflict breaks out. “God forbid there is a war, Pakistan will be affected but will India’s economy not suffer?”

The pilot in question, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was shot down and ejected over Pakistani-controlled territory in the disputed state of Kashmir on Wednesday. Pakistan later released footage of the pilot, in which he refuses to answer questions about his mission or type of aircraft.

In a previous video that went viral, the downed pilot was seen being rescued from an angry mob of locals by Pakistani soldiers. New Delhi called the releases a “vulgar display” and demanded the immediate safe return of the pilot.

Meanwhile, local voices in Pakistan have also called for a détente. The niece of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and granddaughter of former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto wrote an op-ed for the New York Times op-ed, in which she said: “I and many other young Pakistanis have called upon our country to release the captured Indian pilot as a gesture of our commitment to peace, humanity and dignity.”

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