Pakistan hands over captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman to India

Pakistan hands over captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman to India

"As a gesture of peace and to de-escalate matters, the Indian pilot who is under arrest with us will be released today in the afternoon at the Wagah border", he told lawmakers.

The Pakistani officials will hand over him to the Indian officials at the Attari-Wagah Border crossing. On India's side there were policemen lined up along the road while a huge crowd of Indians waved the country's flag and welcomed the pilot back.

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.

The growing began following a suicide auto bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir which killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on February 14.

India had requested Pakistan to bring Abhinandan via air and even reportedly was mulling to send a special aircraft to Pakistan but Islamabad had insisted on releasing him via Wagah border.

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. It said other airports, including the one located in the eastern city of Lahore that borders India, will remain closed until March 4.

Minutes earlier, the pilot said on Pakistani TV that he was "very impressed" by the Pakistan army. The closures snarled air traffic.

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Kashmir has been divided but claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan since nearly immediately after the two countries' creation in 1947.

Islamabad says the handover was a gesture of peace that could defuse tensions and avoid another war between the two nations.

China has urged restraint from both sides.

What's the latest India-Pakistan news and what is the Kashmir conflict about?

The U.S. sale of the Lockheed Martin Corp. jets to Pakistan mandates that they be flown only for counterterrorism operations, according to Rahul Bedi, a New Delhi-based analyst with Janes Information Services. Pakistani "aircraft attempting to target military installations were intercepted by IAF fighter aircraft, which thwarted their plans". An Indian MiG-21 was shot down and its pilot captured, although returned later.

India accused Pakistan of harbouring the Jaish-e Mohammad group behind the attack and Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised a strong response.

The incident comes a day after India launched air strikes in Pakistani territory in the first such incursion by the India Air Force since the India-Pakistan war of 1971.

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