Press Trust of india

UN chief urges India, Pak to sustain ‘positive momentum’, engage in constructive dialogue

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United Nations, Mar 02:  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has welcomed the return of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthman from captivity in Pakistan and called on the two countries to sustain the "positive momentum" and engage in further constructive dialogue.

The IAF Wing Commander returned to India from Pakistan on Friday to a hero's welcome, nearly 60 hours after he was captured following a dogfight when his MiG 21 was shot down.

"UN chief Guterres welcomes the news of the release of the Indian pilot by Pakistani authorities," his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said when asked about the Secretary-General's response to the development.

"The Secretary-General calls on both parties to sustain this positive momentum and engage in further constructive dialogue. His good offices remain available should both sides agree," Dujarric said.

Varthaman's release was being watched with bated breath across India as the IAF pilot was accorded a hero's welcome as he crossed onto India through the Wagah Border.

The IAF pilot's release was seen as a major step towards defusing a near-war situation.

Tensions between India and Pakistan flared up after a suicide bomber of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group killed 49 CRPF personnel in Kashmir on February 14.

Amid mounting outrage, the IAF carried out air strikes, hitting what it said was a “JeM training camp” in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan retaliated with a large air formation, comprising 24 fighter jets.

During the dogfight, Varthaman’s plane was hit and he bailed out, landing in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, where he was taken into custody by the Pakistani army.

On Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan told a special joint sitting of Parliament that his government was releasing the pilot as a "peace gesture". However, India has been maintaining that the Pakistani decision is in consonance with the Geneva Conventions.

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