Pakistan today said that it is willing to consider returning the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot it captured if this leads to de-escalation in tensions between the two countries. The pilot was captured yesterday after an aerial combat between Indian and Pakistani fighter planes.
"We are ready to hand over the Indian pilot if it leads to de-escalation," Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal told news agency AFP, attributing the statement to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has also said that he is ready to speak to his Indian counterpart - Narendra Modi - over the phone to offer his country's hand in peace, news agency PTI quoted Mr Qureshi as saying.
Pakistan had sent fighter jets across the border on Wednesday, a day after India conducted an air strike on terror camps in Pakistan's Balakot. While IAF jets managed to shoot down a Pakistani F-16, an Indian fighter crashed across the border - resulting in the pilot's capture. Many major world powers, including China, the United States and the United Kingdom, have appealed for restraint in a situation that could rapidly spiral out of control.
Earlier today, Mr Faisal had told reporters that the pilot was "safe and in good condition". The Pakistan spokesperson admitted that he could have been manhandled by local residents before officers reached the spot, but insisted that he was now well-cared for. "We will decide in a day or two whether he should be given the status of POW (prisoner of war) or not," he added.