Pakistan has freed an Indian fighter pilot captured after his plane was shot down in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, amid rising tensions.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was handed over to Indian officials near a border crossing with Pakistan, according to BBC report.
The pilot described his experience on Pakistani TV, adding how “very impressed” he was by the Pakistan army. On Thursday Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the pilot’s release was a “peace gesture” to India.
India and Pakistan – both nuclear powers – claim all of Kashmir, but each controls only parts of it. On Friday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the events of the past few days had “brought our nation closer”.
“The way the nation has supported our armed forces is extraordinary and I bow to every Indian for that,” he said.
The pilot is being hailed as a hero in India, where crowds have been gathering carrying banners and garlands at the symbolic Wagah border crossing – the only legal crossing between India and Pakistan.
Tensions between the two countries have escalated sharply in the past few weeks.
On Tuesday, India carried out air strikes on what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed at least 40 Indian troops in Indian-administered Kashmir on 14 February.
A Pakistan-based group said it carried out the attack – the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir.
Pakistan – which denies any involvement in the 14 February attack – said it had no choice but to retaliate to the Indian raids with air strikes on Wednesday. That led to a dogfight and the Indian fighter jet being shot down in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.