Pakistan has announced its intent to release the captured Indian Air Force pilot on Friday. Prime Minister Imran Khan labeled the move a ‘gesture of peace.’ Pakistan’s intention had been to tie the pilot’s release to a de-escalation of tensions. India, however, did not take the bait. Officials in New Delhi made it clear it would not negotiate for the pilot’s release or allow him to be used as a bargaining chip. De-escalation, according to India, is the responsibility of Pakistan. The hope around the world is that, despite India’s position, the release of its pilot will in fact help to stabilize the situation. For the moment though, the region remains tense. India’s armed forces are on a high alert, and there are indications that Pakistan has increased the readiness levels of its services.
Pakistani airspace will reopen to commercial air traffic at 6 PM local time (1300 Zulu) on Friday. The airspace has been closed since Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight following an Indian airstrike on a suspected terrorist camp on the Pakistani side of the LoC, and a subsequent Pakistani retaliatory strike on targets on the Indian side.
Trade across the Line of Control (LoC) at Salamabad Uri was suspended for the second consecutive day on Thursday. Trade in the area normally takes place between Tuesday and Friday. There has been no determination if it will resume tomorrow.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to the leaders of Pakistan and India today and is hopeful the high tension between the two countries will come down soon. Even so, there is concern in the White House, and Pentagon that the tensions could still lead to a major confrontation between the nuclear-armed rivals.