Pakistan To Release Captured Indian Pilot As "Goodwill Gesture"

Before international intermediaries even had a chance to step in to try to quell the escalating conflict, the Indian military started digging bunkers and deploying tanks along the border with Pakistan as the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi - who is struggling to revive sagging poll numbers in the final weeks before a crucial election - told Islamabad that it would not negotiate for the release of captured pilot Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was taken into custody by Pakistani jawans after his plane was shot down Wednesday following an aerial skirmish that led to downed planes on both sides.

Fearing not only a military escalation, but also the pressing financial economic concerns as his country seeks another bailout from the IMF, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said during a joint session of Parliament on Thursday that the captured pilot would be released as a "gesture of goodwill" on Friday.


Before Khan's announcement, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Pakistani television station Geo TV on Thursday that "we are willing to return the captured Indian pilot if it leads to de-escalation," per Reuters.


The decisions comes as several western powers, including the UK, as well as China, had urged caution in the intensifying conflict. Moscow has also offered to mediate between the two sides.

However, Khan said that he was unable to reach Modi when he tried to call his neighboring leader to try and work out a resolution (the Pakistani leader has called for talks, but the Indians have been somewhat less committal). Khan has also said it would be vital that the conflict not "get out of hand" (because nobody wants nuclear war) and added that he didn't believe the Indian people agree with their government's "warmongering."

India accused Pakistan of violating the Geneva Convention a day earlier after the captured pilot was "paraded" on Pakistani television.

India and Pakistan have continued exchanging conventional arms fire across the contested border in Kashmir on Thursday.  Meanwhile, Trump said during a press conference in Hanoi after the collapse of talks with North Korea that "we have been in the middle trying to help them both out."