Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was captured in PoK after ejecting from his MiG-21 Bison on Wednesday will be released by Pakistan as a “peace gesture”, and the Indian pilot will return home via Wagah Border today.
Just a day after the Balakot air strikes, Pakistan air defence chose to demonstrate its “right, will and capability for self-defence” and rushed its F-16 jets in Indian air space on Wednesday. While chasing down the Pakistani jets, one of the three IAF MiG-21 Bison jets took a hit by the Pakistani planes, crashing in PoK, beyond the Indian border. However, the pilot of the MiG-21 Bison – IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman made an emergency ejection and landed in Pakistan.
After two days of informal negotiations, Pakistan PM Imran Khan announced in Parliament on Thursday that, “We have Indian pilot in our custody. As a peace gesture and as a first step to open negotiations, I announce that we will release him tomorrow”. Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman will be brought from Rawalpindi to Lahore, handed over to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) under rules of the Geneva Convention. He will then return back home via the Wagah Border between 12 noon and 2 PM – today, March 1, 2019 – two days after being captured.
The peace gesture from the other side of border should be seen as the first step to edge away from the brinks and initiate de-escalation instead of war. At this point, Pak’s decision to act with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the release of the Indian personnel within 48 hours of captivity, without using it as a chance to leverage escalation in the heightened tensions and war-like atmosphere is more than a welcome move. The looming storm, should pass with this – for no war has ever solved anything.