The United States has welcomed Pakistan's decision to release Indian Air Force pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who is currently in their custody after his fighter jet crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Though the pilot's return to India is in accordance with the Geneva Convention, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that Wing Commander Abhinandan will be released today as a "gesture of peace".
Pakistan detained the IAF pilot on Wednesday following a fierce engagement between the air forces of the two nations along the Line of Control or LoC when his MiG-21 fighter jet was downed after he shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet. He ejected from his aircraft, but landed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, where he was detained.
"We welcome Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's commitment that Pakistan will release on Friday the Indian pilot held in its custody," a US State Department spokesperson told news agency Press Trust of India, responding to a question on the announcement made by Imran Khan in the Pakistani parliament.
Simultaneously, the United States urged both India and Pakistan to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions.
"The United States continues to urge both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, including through direct communication. Further military activity will exacerbate the situation," the US state department spokesperson said.
The US reiterated its call to Pakistan to abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds.
"We reiterate our call for Pakistan to abide by its United Nations Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds," the spokesperson said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Thursday joined other lawmakers in expressing concern over the escalating tension between India and Pakistan.
"This is a result of a Pakistan-based terrorist group's brutal attack", he said, adding "I urge both countries to de-escalate the mounting tensions."