Pakistan returned a captured Indian pilot to his country on Friday. Pakistani officials described the move as a “gesture of peace.” The action temporarily reduced tensions between the two sides over the disputed Kashmir area.
The pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, was seen walking across the border near the town of Wagah just before 1600 Universal Time (UTC). Indian officials then confirmed he had been returned.
His return to India came after a series of cross-border attacks in Kashmir this week.
On Tuesday, Indian aircraft entered Pakistan air space to attack what India described as a camp of the Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad. The group had claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Indian Kashmir on February 14. The explosion killed at least 40 paramilitary troops.
Both India and Pakistan claim they shot down enemy airplanes on Wednesday. Varthaman was captured when his plane crashed in a Pakistan-controlled area.
The two countries have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. Two of the wars were fought over Kashmir.
Located high in the Himalayan Mountains, Kashmir borders China to the northeast, India to the south and Pakistan to the west. The area is about 222,000 square kilometers in size. But its exact border has always been poorly defined.
Over the years, a series of rulers introduced Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh cultures to Kashmir. When the British withdrew in 1947, Hari Singh, the Hindu ruler over Kashmir, delayed a decision to join Muslim Pakistan or Hindu-majority India. The move was part of an effort to remain independent.
As the majority Muslim population of Kashmir rebelled, Singh chose to join India. This led to the first Indo-Pakistani War of 1947.
A year later, the two nations agreed to a ceasefire. The agreement called for Pakistan to withdraw its troops and for India to keep a small military presence. It also called for a popular vote for Kashmiris to decide their future. But Pakistan did not pull back its troops and a vote was never held.
In 1962, China overpowered Indian forces to capture a small area along its border with Kashmir.
Heavy fighting between India and Pakistan broke out in 1965 and again in 1971. With Pakistan’s defeat, the two nations signed an agreement to establish East Pakistan as the independent nation of Bangladesh.
The agreement also established a Line of Control, effectively dividing Kashmir into two areas. Tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers have since faced off along the Line of Control and, at times, exchanged gunfire.
Behind the line, militants continue their attacks like the one that brought the two nuclear-powered countries closer to another war.
I'm Ashley Thompson.
Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
gesture - n. something done to show a particular feeling or attitude
paramilitary - adj. related to a group that is organized like an army
locate - v. to be in a specific place
introduce - v. to bring something to a place for the first time