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IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman returns: China welcomes Pakistan ‘goodwill signal’

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that China had, from the beginning, called upon both sides to exercise restraint, ease tensions, and engage in dialogue.

China on Friday said it welcomes the “goodwill signal” by Pakistan in releasing captured Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman as a gesture of peace. Wing Commander Varthaman returned to India on Friday evening, a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that the pilot would be released “in our desire for peace”.

In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ briefing on Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that China had, from the beginning, called upon both sides to exercise restraint, ease tensions, and engage in dialogue.

China welcomes the goodwill signal by the Pakistan side. De-escalation serves common interest of both sides,” Lu said. “Encourage both sides to make a joint effort to deal with the relevant issue.”

He reiterated that China hopes to see regional peace and stability.

China Daily, the state-owned English-language daily newspaper, in its editorial headlined ‘India, Pakistan need to rein in their animosity’, stated: “As a good neighbour of both Pakistan and India, China, in particular, has expressed “deep concern” over the situation, urging the two arch-rivals to “exercise restraint” and resolve their dispute through dialogue.”

It noted that “nationalistic hysteria” is on the “rise in both countries”, and that leaders of both India and Pakistan “will have to work hard to ensure they are not hijacked by the mood of the public, especially after tit-for-tat airstrikes in which both sides claimed they shot down each other’s fighter jets and the Pakistanis said they captured at least one Indian pilot”.

The editorial reiterated Beijing’s stance on respecting the sovereignty of a country’s territory. Critiquing India, it stated, “The anger over the heavy casualties is understandable. But using warplanes to bomb targets deep inside another sovereign country’s territory has only aggravated the situation. As has the rhetoric of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is keen to present a strong image ahead of the coming elections. It is worth noting that shortly after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed power last year, he invited Modi for dialogue, although the invitation was rejected by New Delhi.”

The editorial noted that Pakistan is “also a victim of terrorism”, and “because it is on the forefront of the global fight against terrorism, it has paid a huge price, with thousands of its soldiers and civilians having been killed by extremists that target them.” Further: “Given the high risks involved in a prolonged conflict, both leaders must make sure any of the actions they are going to take are measured. Maybe Khan could start by releasing the captured Indian pilot, in a show of goodwill to improve its ties with India.”

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