NEW DELHI — Indian Air Force (AIF) pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was released by Pakistan this evening.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders welcomed the pilot. Wing Commander Varthaman’s release had been delayed due to certain reasons.

News agency ANI reported that Pakistan changed the timing of handover twice. New Delhi wanted to bring back captured IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan by a special flight, but was denied permission.

Pakistan has said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was being released as a “gesture of peace”.

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IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman’s MiG 21 was shot during an aerial combat between India and Pakistan on Wednesday morning. He was in Pakistan since then.

Tensions between the two countries escalated after Indian fighters bombed near Balakot inside Pakistan early Tuesday.

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