India on Thursday strongly rejected any probability of a deal with Pakistan to secure the return of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the IAF pilot captured by Pakistan, and insisted on his immediate return, government sources said on Thursday.
The sources said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has to walk the talk on investigating the deadly Pulwama attack and that India wants immediate, credible and verifiable action against terrorists and their proxies.
"India has not asked for any consular access to the IAF pilot. We want him back immediately," a source told a news agency.
Meanwhile, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, "We are willing to return the captured Indian pilot if it leads to de-escalation. Prime Minister Imran Khan is ready to hold a telephonic conversation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi."
Denouncing Pakistan's breach of the Line of Control, they said their air force "specifically targeted Indian military facilities, while we targeted only Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp".
Tensions between India and Pakistan are at an all-time high since the February 14 attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama that left 40 paramilitary troopers dead. On February 26, the Indian Air Force carried out a pre-dawn airstrike deep inside Pakistan's territory in Balakot. The government of India officially called it an "intelligence-led, non-military, pre-emptive action".
The airstrike significantly heightened tensions between India and Pakistan which worsened on February 27, when Pakistani jets and Indian fighters had an aerial confrontation over Jammu and Kashmir. Indian Air Force's MiG-21 fighter jets managed to shoot down a Pakistani jet, something that Islamabad refused.
However, an Indian fighter jet was also "lost" in the confrontation, the government said, and its pilot was "missing in action", as per reports.