The Latest: Khan: Pakistan to release captured Indian pilot


ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Latest on escalating India-Pakistan tensions (all times local):

9:10 p.m.

Turkish officials say Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan has called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid his country’s standoff with India.

A statement from Erdogan’s office said the two discussed the tensions between Pakistan and India and other developments in the region during Thursday’s telephone conversation.

The statement did not provide further details and officials would not say whether Khan had requested Turkey’s assistance to defuse tensions.

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Islamabad has reached out asking the international community for help to deescalate tensions with India over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.


4:05 p.m.

India is welcoming Pakistan’s decision to free a captured Indian pilot whose Mig-21 fighter was shot down during an aerial skirmish between the air forces of the two countries in disputed Kashmir.

Air Vice Marshal R.J.K. Kapoor, an Indian air force spokesman, says the Indian air force “is extremely happy and looks forward to the return of the Indian pilot.”

Talking to reporters, the spokesman did not give any details, such as whether the pilot will be flown from Pakistan on Friday.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in Parliament on Thursday that the pilot will be released as “a peace gesture, ” a step that is likely to help defuse the confrontation between the nuclear-armed neighbors over the disputed region of Kashmir.


5:20 p.m.

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Fresh fighting has erupted between Indian and Pakistani soldiers along the so-called Line of Control that divides disputed Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

India’s army says Pakistani soldiers are targeting nearly two dozen Indian forward points with mortar and gunfire.

Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, says Pakistani troops later Thursday attacked forward posts along the Line of Control calling it an “unprovoked” violation of the 2003 cease-fire accord. He said Indian soldiers were responding to the ongoing Pakistani multiple attacks along the highly militarized de-facto frontier.

Anand said shells were also landing in some civilian areas near the frontier. Police said at least two people, an off-duty soldier and a woman, were injured in the shelling.

Pakistani soldiers also attacked Indian positions overnight, the army spokesman said earlier, but described its intensity as “lesser” than previous nights. He said no casualties involving soldiers were reported so far in fighting since Wednesday night.

India and Pakistan routinely trade fire and blame the other for starting skirmishes along the frontier.


4:25 p.m.

Prime Minister Imran Khan says Pakistan will release the captured Indian pilot as a “peace gesture” toward India.

Khan made this announcement Thursday while addressing lawmakers in both chambers of parliament, convened to discuss the latest situation amid rising tensions with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Khan says he tried to reach his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Wednesday with a message that he wants to de-escalate tension.

Khan did not say how India responded to his initiative.

He also reiterated his offer for talks to New Delhi, saying this is the only way to solve all issues.


2:55 p.m.

China says it’s in close communication with both India and Pakistan in hopes of promoting a de-escalation of their current standoff.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang says China hopes “the two countries can meet each other halfway and resolve this issue via dialogue.”

Lu said at a daily briefing on Thursday that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed Beijing’s concerns both to his Indian counterpart at a trilateral meeting in eastern China and over the phone with Pakistan’s foreign minister.

Lu says upholding regional peace and stability was a primary concern.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang expressed similar sentiments calling for restraint.

Ren said “both India and Pakistan are friends of China and we believe that the top priority is for the two sides to exercise restraint and to resolve the issue through dialogue and coordination.”

Ren declined to say if China has taken any special measures at its border with Kashmir in response to the India-Pakistan escalation.


2:45 p.m.

Pakistan’s foreign minister says a top Saudi diplomat is coming to Islamabad later in the day to deliver an important message from the Saudi crown prince amid the Pakistan-India standoff.

Islamabad has reached out asking the international community for help to deescalate tensions with India over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, will a message from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman later on Thursday.

Qureshi says he spoke to al-Jubeir on the phone the previous night. He did not give further details.

Al-Jubeir will arrive in Islamabad on his special plane even though Pakistan has temporarily closed its air space to all civilian traffic amid tensions with India.


2:20 p.m.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry says India has handed over its file on the deadly Kashmir bombing this month, a sign of easing tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

The Feb. 14 suicide bombing targeted Indian paramilitary forces in the Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing 40 troops and leading to a dramatic escalation between India and Pakistan.

The ministry’s spokesman, Mohammad Faisal, says the Pakistani side will be examining the “dossier” that Islamabad received through diplomatic channels on Thursday. He refused to provide details about the information that New Delhi has shared.

The Indian move to share information comes after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan offered talks with India. Pakistan also has said it will act against those linked to the Kashmir bombing if actionable intelligence is shared with it.


1 p.m.

India’s prime minister says his country’s enemies are conspiring to create instability through terror attacks.

The remarks by Prime Minister Narendra Modi come amid tensions with Pakistan following the areal skirmish between the two countries in disputed Kashmir. Pakistan said it shot down two Indian warplanes and captured a pilot on Wednesday.

Modi spoke to tens of thousands of Hindu nationalist party workers on Thursday in a video conference from New Delhi.

He didn’t mention archrival Pakistan but said a united India would “fight, live, work and win.”

The videoconference was meant to galvanize his party workers ahead of elections due by May. Opposition leaders are criticizing Modi for the campaign event during the tense standoff with Pakistan.


11:40 a.m.

Members of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party have called for more military action against Pakistan as tensions dramatically escalated this week between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

Modi is to address tens of thousands of workers and volunteers from his Bharitiya Janata Party across the country on Thursday afternoon, rallying support ahead elections this spring in an event being billed as the “world’s largest videoconference.”

Opposition leaders demanded on Twitter that he cancel the event amid the tensions with Pakistan.

Twenty-one opposition party leaders met in New Delhi on Wednesday, releasing a statement praising the “valor” of India’s armed forces and condemning the ruling party’s “blatant politicization” of the events.


11:15 a.m.

Authorities in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir have closed all schools and educational institutions in the region and are urging parents to keep their children at home amid mounting tension with neighboring India.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that a key train service linking the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore with India has been suspended until “the security situation improves.”

Pakistan’s airspace remained closed for a second day Thursday, snarling air traffic.

There was a complete power blackout overnight in Muzafarabad, the main city on the Pakistani-held side of the disputed Himalayan region because of concerns India could to retaliate after Pakistan said it shot down two Indian warplanes and captured a pilot the day before.


11 a.m.

Pakistani police say troops deployed in the disputed region of Kashmir continued trading fire with India overnight, forcing villagers living near the contested frontier to move to safer places even as the two nuclear-armed nations appear to be stepping back from the brink.

Police official Mohammad Tahir says cross-border fire continued into Thursday but there were no casualties. Government buildings in Muzafarabad, the capital of the Pakistan-controlled section of Kashmir, are being used to provide shelter to those who fled from border towns.

This comes a day after Pakistan’s military said it shot down two Indian warplanes in Kashmir and captured a pilot, answering an airstrike the previous day by Indian fighter jets inside Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan offered peace talks and India’s external affairs minister promised restraint.

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