India's Modi could ease tensions with Pakistan if captured pilot returns safely

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Indian government and military forces attend to the scene of a crashed Indian Air Force aircraft on February 27, 2019 in Budgam west of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, India.

Yawar Nazir | Getty Images

Indian government and military forces attend to the scene of a crashed Indian Air Force aircraft on February 27, 2019 in Budgam west of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s may have room to ease tensions with arch rival Pakistan, if his counterpart offered certain concessions such as the return of a captured pilot, a political analyst said Thursday.

Tensions between the two nuclear powers spiraled this week, after military planes from both sides carried out tit-for-tat air strikes in each other’s territories, and as their troops traded fire along their contested border in Kashmir. New Delhi and Islamabad also claimed to have brought down each other’s military jets.

Pakistan also claimed an Indian pilot was taken into custody on Wednesday. Later, a video surfaced that appeared to show the captured pilot who was attacked by a mob and then paraded around by the Pakistani army. India’s external affairs ministry said in a statement it “strongly objected to Pakistan’s vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force” and accused Islamabad of violating the Geneva Convention, which calls for humane treatment of prisoners-of-war.

On Thursday morning, reports said the countries briefly exchanged fire in a district in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Pakistan has closed its airspace, which forced commercial airlines to reroute.

This week’s escalation was triggered after Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for an attack in India-controlled Kashmir on Feb. 14 that killed more than 40 Indian security officers.

For its part, India said it carried out incursions inside Pakistani territory against a JeM militant camp that it claimed was planning terrorism attacks against the country. Pakistan, on the other hand, said its actions a day later were to demonstrate its ability to respond to potential acts of aggression from India.

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