Crowds gather at Attari ahead of IAF pilot’s return; beating retreat cancelled

Pakistan claims it shot down 2 Indian jets

Pakistan partially re-opens airspace, ready to hand over Indian pilot

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was handed over to Indian officials on Friday at the only legal border crossing with Pakistan.

Indian officials said the pilot would now be taken by air to the capital Delhi.

On the Indian side of Pakistan's border crossing at Wagah, turbaned Indian policemen lined the road on Friday in expectations of the pilot's handover.

The Pakistani authorities got all the paper work completed to hand over the pilot to Indian High Commission officials, but the pilot's return was awaited by hubndreds of Indian visitors who had thronged the border transit point. "He showed a lot of bravery in the air combat and even after being captured by the Pakistanis", Jitender, a resident of Amritsar, who arrived in Attari with his friends, said.

While the government tried to keep a relatively tight lid on the actual handover at the border on Friday, Indians enthusiastically celebrated their Air Force pilot's release online, with the #WelcomeHomeAbhinandan hashtag spreading fast across social media. On February 27, Pakistan's planes attacked military targets in Jammu and Kashmir.

Abhinanadan is likely to be handed over to the Indian authorities at Wagah border on Friday afternoon.

Abhinandan's plane came down on Wednesday after a dogfight with a Pakistani jet, two eyewitnesses told Reuters.

The ambassador pointed to the fact that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had made numerous attempts to contact his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, which had gone unheeded by the Indian party.

The agency issued a statement saying all domestic and worldwide flights will be allowed to and from the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's air space remained closed to most air traffic, although some domestic flights were allowed on Thursday. He was captured by Pakistan this week, marking a dramatic pause in steadily deteriorating relations between the nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan. More than 200 people had fled to a military organized camp about 20 kilometres (16 miles) away from the border.

Police have already arrested at least 400 leaders and activists, mainly from the Jama'at-e-Islami, which seeks self-determination for the Himalayan region, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety.

Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since their independence from British rule in 1947. India's MiG-21 fighter upgraded by Russian Federation possesses combat capabilities identical to those of the F-16 of Pakistan's Air Force, the editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko, said about recent clashes involving these planes.

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