Is Virat Kohli a real hero
After the threatening military confrontation between the nuclear powers India and Pakistan there are the first signs of détente. Pakistan released a detained Indian pilot on Friday.
Abhinandan Varthaman, Lieutenant Colonel of the Indian Air Force, was handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah border crossing in Punjab province in the evening (local time), according to the foreign ministries of both countries. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the handover on Thursday as a "gesture of peace".
TV pictures showed how Varthaman, flanked by soldiers, crossed the border to India on foot. Prominent Indians like the cricket superstar Virat Kohli celebrated the pilot on social media as "real heroes". Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan welcomed the pilot with a picture of Indian flags on Twitter.
Provocations on both sides
Tensions between the warring nuclear powers India and Pakistan had come to a head in the past few days. After India's air force flew an attack on Pakistani territory for the first time since 1971 on Tuesday night, Pakistan said it shot down two Indian warplanes on Wednesday. According to the Indian armed forces, Varthaman was parachuted into Pakistani territory.
India said it had attacked a training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group in Pakistan, which had claimed an attack in the Indian part of Kashmir. 40 Indian security forces were killed in the attack on February 14th.
The handover of the pilot could mark a temporary end to the escalation - despite ongoing tensions: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Mehmood Qureshi canceled his participation in a meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation in Abu Dhabi on Friday because his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj was invited as a guest of honor.
First step towards de-escalation
From government circles in New Delhi it was said that the release of Varthaman India alone would not be enough to resume dialogue with the neighboring country. Pakistan provoked the escalation to divert attention from its support for terrorist groups. Islamabad must finally take action against groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed, who operate from Pakistan - Pakistan denies this.
In a video distributed by the Pakistani army, the detained Indian lieutenant colonel said he was being treated well. The Pakistani army officers are "gentlemen through and through". The tea he got was "fantastic". Videos of Varthaman lying in a puddle and being beaten by an angry crowd after landing in Pakistan were also circulated on the Internet - as well as of how he was interviewed by the army, bleeding, handcuffed and blindfolded.
India lodged a diplomatic protest over the prisoner's "vulgar representation" in violation of the Geneva Convention. Their provisions stipulate that prisoners of war are to be protected from "public curiosity", among other things.
Two wars already
Many Indian media and internet users celebrated the unconditional handover as India's victory. In Pakistan, on the other hand, numerous social media users suggested Khan for the Nobel Peace Prize.
His Indian counterpart Narendra Modi said in a campaign appearance on Friday: "Sadly, some parties, led by Modi hatred, have started to hate India." Unlike the nation, these parties did not support the armed forces or India's war on terror, he said.
Modi had come under fire because, despite the crisis, he made his planned campaign appearances before the parliamentary elections that were due to take place by the end of May and did not address the nation - for example in the form of a television speech.
Since the independence of the former British India and its separation into India and Pakistan in 1947, both countries have claimed Kashmir for themselves - they each control part. Today's nuclear powers have already fought two wars for the Himalaya Valley.
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