Pakistan hands over captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman to India


The convoy carrying Indian air force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman drives out from the Integrated Check Post on the Indian side of the border in Attari, India, March 1, 2019.

An Indian pilot released by Pakistan went back to India Friday night, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The highly symbolic Wagah crossing point, where the handover is due to take place, is famed for hosting colourful rival ceremonies by Indian and Pakistani soldiers each day at sundown.

Pakistani and Indian officials completed the handover process in the presence of some independent global observers, the reports said. "By its combat capabilities and flight parameters it is an equal of the F-16 version at the disposal of Pakistan's Air Force", Korotchenko said.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal acknowledged his country received a "dossier" from India about the February 14 attack.

"Regardless of what's going on with the wing commander and him being transferred back to India, the situation in terms of any semblance of peace and tranquility is certainly far from it".

Abhinandan, who was captured by Pakistan on Wednesday, is expected to be released on Friday.

"As a peace gesture we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow", Mr Khan told Pakistani lawmakers in the National Assembly on Thursday.

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

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One of the aircraft fell on India's side of Kashmir, he added.

Also Friday, Pakistan's civil aviation authority partially re-opened the country's airspace, allowing travel to four major cities, another sign tensions with archrival India were de-escalating. Having attempted to evade capture, he is being portrayed as a hero in India. The closures snarled air traffic.

Residents of the Pakistani border town of Chikhoti reported heavy mortar shelling into Friday.

"Many celebrities and other important people come to Attari border on different occasions".

Abhinandan was shot down over Kashmir on Wednesday, after a dogfight in the skies over the disputed Himalayan region which sent tensions between India and Pakistan to their highest levels in years and alarmed world powers, who issued calls for restraint.

Varthaman, seen wearing an Indian Air Force uniform, says the Pakistani military was "professional" in treating him.

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.

In the war of 1971, when the two countries fought over the liberation of Bangladesh, India had taken over 90,000 prisoners of war including many security personnel.