Pakistan will release captured Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman on Friday as a “peace gesture”, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday. The development came soon after Indian officials said New Delhi will not negotiate any deal for the pilot’s release. “We want him back unharmed, unconditionally and immediately,” an official said on condition of anonymity. “He is not a bargaining chip. There is no question of any deal with Pakistan on his return.”

Asserting that India has not asked for consular access to Varthaman, sources said Pakistan’s efforts to link the release of the pilot with “de-escalation” of tensions has not gone down well in New Delhi. The onus of de-escalating tension lies entirely on Pakistan, they said. India wants immediate, credible and verifiable action against terrorists and their proxies. Pakistan has to take concrete steps against Jaish-e-Mohammad, they said.

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