Pakistan hands over captured Indian pilot

Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force aircraft after it crashed in Budgam district some 30 kilometers from Srinagar

Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force aircraft after it crashed in Budgam district some 30 kilometers from Srinagar

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, downed on Wednesday over Kashmir - divided between the nuclear-armed rivals since 1947 - crossed into India at the famed Wagah border checkpoint late Friday, sporting a black eye from his ordeal.

According to the reports, the Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was handed over to Indian officials at the Wagah border crossing near Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore. The Pakistan foreign office issued a statement titled "Return of Indian POW Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman" after the handover that described it as a "gesture of peace" and said Abhinandan "while in captivity, was treated with dignity and in line with global law".

Images then circulated of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman's capture, which were condemned for what appeared to be a physical attack at the hands of residents in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, but also praised because of the actions of the Pakistani soldiers who intervened to create a barrier. He said that the nation was one on the agenda of honorable existence of Pakistan and freedom of Kashmir.

Following his death, the Foreign Office had expressed grave concern over the death of Pakistani prisoner and said he was "beaten to death by a group of Indian inmates in retaliation of the Pulwama incident".

The aerial attacks across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Indian and Pakistani territory are the first since a war in 1971.

The IAF, in a joint briefing with the Indian Army and the Navy on Thursday, 28 February, said that it was happy about Abhinandan Varthaman's return. The cabinet welcomed the decision to release Abhinandan, the captured Indian pilot.

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When Pakistan's Khan announced on Thursday that the pilot would be returned, he did so with a warning to Modi: "I want to say it to India today: Don't take this any further, Pakistan will be forced to retaliate", Khan said.

The agency issued a statement on Friday saying all domestic and worldwide flights will be allowed to and from the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta.

Pakistan reopened some airports on Friday, after easing airspace restrictions that had disrupted flights between Asia and Europe for several days during the conflict.

One of the aircraft fell on India's side of Kashmir, he added. The closures snarled air traffic. More than 200 people fled to a military organized camp about 20 kilometers (16 miles) away from the border.

India's MiG-21-93 fighters, eventually named MiG-21UGP Bison, were upgraded to be equipped with a new radar, wider range of weapons, modern indicators on the windshield, helmet-mounted sights and multifunctional display screens in the cockpit.

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