Moment Abhinandan released by Pakistan in 'peace gesture — India pilot RELEASED

Moment Abhinandan released by Pakistan in 'peace gesture — India pilot RELEASED

Moment Abhinandan released by Pakistan in 'peace gesture — India pilot RELEASED

Pakistan's government on Friday began the process of fulfilling its promise to return the captured Indian pilot as a "gesture of peace" in the wake of a military escalation between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

India, on Friday, celebrated the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan.

The decision to release Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan was not taken under pressure, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told BBC Urdu on Friday. "He showed a lot of bravery in the air combat and even after being captured by the Pakistanis", Jitender, a resident of Amritsar, who arrived in Attari with his friends, said.

Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a February 14 suicide attack in Indian Kashmir that killed more than 40 troops.

Tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers face off along the disputed border known as the Line of Control in one of the world's most volatile regions. I have come here only for Wing Commander Abhinandan.

Wearing blue blazer and grey "khaki" trouser, Abhinandan stepped on the India soil at 9.20 pm on Friday from Attari-Wagah border in Punjab's Amritsar where thousands had been waiting for hours to have a glimpse of the fearless IAF officer.

Minutes earlier, the pilot said on Pakistani TV that he was "very impressed" by the Pakistan army.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi, in a tweet, said Abhinandan's dignity, poise and bravery has made the countrymen proud.

"The way situation is developing along the LoC makes me feel that both sides may collide head-on anytime now", said Chaudhry Jahangir, a Pakistani resident of the Samahni sector in Kashmir.

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Simultaneously, the U.S. has urged both India and Pakistan to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions. Indian army soldiers near the wreckage of an Indian aircraft apparently shot down by Pakistan.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said earlier this week that "India's enemies are conspiring to create instability in the country through terror attacks".

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels and sending them into Indian-controlled Kashmir to launch attacks against government targets.

On Friday, four Indian troops and one civilian were killed in a clash with militants in the Indian-administered Kashmir, where a further three people were killed and one wounded from Pakistani shelling.

On Thursday, Khan announced that he would be released, signalling a de-escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan.

Seven civilians were injured on the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir, in the Uri border area, by Pakistani firing over night, Indian officials said. India's unilateral act has upset Pakistan to the extent that the country has promised to surprise India in a similar fashion.

Before the pilot was released, Pakistani television stations broadcast video of him, looking cleaned up, thanking the Pakistani army for treating him well.

After attempting to evade capture, he has been portrayed as a hero in India.

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