Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is ready to speak with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the telephone, its foreign minister has said after both sides claimed they shot down each other’s warplanes.
Speaking to local television channel Geo News on Thursday, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that if the gesture will ease soaring tensions, Pakistan is prepared to return the Indian air force pilot it captured after downing “two fighter jets” over Pakistani airspace in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
“I am sending a message to India: if the return of this pilot allows for a de-escalation, then Pakistan is ready to consider it,” Qureshi said.
He spoke a day after the pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was captured on Wednesday following a rare aerial engagement between the South Asian neighbours over the disputed region of Kashmir.
I am sending a message to India: if the return of this pilot allows for a de-escalation, then Pakistan is ready to consider it
Pakistan’s military said it launched air raids at six targets in the Indian-administered Kashmir as a demonstration of its capabilities, a day after Indian aircraft launched air raids on Pakistani territory.
India, having called for the immediate and safe return of Varthaman, said there will be “no deal” on the captured pilot, local media NDTV reported, attributing government sources.
“We want him back,” sources said. “If Pakistan thinks that they have a card to negotiate with, they do not.”
Tensions between the archrivals escalated after a suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir killed at least 42 Indian soldiers.
India has handed over its files on the deadly February 14 bombing to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi confirmed on Thursday.
“Today, [India] has sent a dossier … we have received it, we will examine it, and now come and speak to us on the basis of this dossier,” the foreign minister said.
“Pakistan is ready for any positive step,” he added. “Pakistan is ready to de-escalate the situation.”
The Indian move to share information comes after Khan offered talks with India, urging to avoid any miscalculation.
In a televised address on Wednesday, the Pakistani prime minister had said his country is ready to cooperate with New Delhi into the investigation of the February 14 suicide bombing, claimed by Pakistan-based armed group, Jaish-e-Muhammad.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of using armed groups as proxies to drive unrest in Kashmir and carry out “terror” attacks in India.
Pakistan has denied all allegations and warned India against linking it to the latest attack.
The recent tensions have caused major world powers, including China and the United States, and the United Nations to call for restraint and de-escalation.