Pakistan will release captured Indian pilot Friday as a peace gesture, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday.
Addressing a a joint session of Parliament, the prime minister said Pakistan’s desire for de-escalation should not be confused as weakness.
“I reached out to New Delhi after assuming charge as prime minister. I wrote to Narendra Modi and suggested a meeting between the foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. But we did not get a positive response,” he said.
Abhinandan was captured soon after he descended by parachute after bailing out from his disintegrating aircraft. The PAF shot down two IAF aircraft, and the wreckage of the second aircraft fell in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Troops of the Pakistan Army moved quickly to save him from an angry mob and surrounded the downed airman for safety, even forcefully pushing away locals who wanted to assault him.
The premier said Islamabad realised that due to the upcoming elections in India, maintaining good ties with Pakistan was not on Modi-led government’s priority.
“It was not in Bharatya Janata Party’s (BJP) campaign manifesto. We decided to wait until after India’s general elections. We opened up Kartarpur Corridor as a positive gesture but we feared misadventures.”
“Then the Pulwama attack happened. Within half an hour, India blamed Pakistan for the attack. We had Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman visiting Islamabad. Why would we sabotage an important conference? What could we gain from it?”
PM Khan referred to a televised address where he offered India complete cooperation in Pulwama attack investigation and sought credible intelligence.
“But instead of evidence, India opted for war-hysteria. I want to pay homage to Pakistan’s media for the responsible coverage. Our media did not engage in warmongering.”