Pakistan Keeps Promise, Lets Indian Fighter Pilot Go

Abhinandan Varthaman upon returning to India: 'It is good to be back'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2019 12:35 PM CST
Indians dance as they wait to welcome Indian fighter pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at the India-Pakistan border on Friday.   (AP Photo/Prabhjot Gill)
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(Newser) – Imran Khan has kept his promise. On Thursday, Pakistan's prime minister vowed to release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who'd been captured after his MiG-21 jet was shot down Wednesday by a Pakistani fighter over the disputed Kashmir territory. And on Friday, Khan made good, with video showing the 38-year-old fighter pilot walking over the border near the Pakistani town of Wagah, per Reuters. The Washington Post notes Varthaman was dressed in a "sharp suit" as he crossed back into India with lots of security nearby and hundreds of cheering Indians waiting to greet him.

"It is good to be back in my country," were his reported first words, an official told the media, per NDTV. Even though Pakistan and India have long been fighting over Kashmir, Varthaman's plane was the first to be shot down in such an "aerial dogfight" between the two countries in nearly a half-century, the Post notes. The pilot was said to have chewed and swallowed some of the maps and other sensitive papers in his possession after his plane crashed to keep them out of the wrong hands. Many hope that the pilot's release will tamp down the India-Pakistan tensions that've been escalating over the past couple of weeks. Varthaman will be debriefed and checked out by doctors, Indian officials say. (Read more Pakistan stories.)

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