NEW DELHI: “Thank you my friends for your concern and wishes. I thank God for his blessings, Abhi is alive, not injured, sound in mind, just look at the way he talked so bravely … a true soldier.. We are so proud of him. I am sure all your hands n blessings are on his head, prayers for his safe return, I pray that he does not get tortured , and comes home safe n sound in body and mind. Thank you all for being with us in this hour of need. We draw our strengths from your support and energy.”

Message from father of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to his service colleagues just hours before Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a decision to release the Indian Air Force officer as a gesture for peace. Pakistanis had run a campaign for the young officers release, on the social media and in the local media with editorials pressing for the same. Khan has been making a case for peace since the beginning of the hostilities announcing in Parliament, “ Yesterday I tried to call (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi to say that we don't want escalation. Our push for de-escalation doesn't mean we are afraid. We have an Indian pilot. As a peace gesture, we will release him tomorrow." This was received with loud applause.

This has come as a major relief for his family, and has led to deep appreciation in India amidst international calls to de-escalate and ensure that the confrontation ends. Pakistan has made it clear in back channel talks with the United States that it is willing to release India’s fighter pilot, captured when his MiG 21 was shot down, as part of the overall de-escalation initiative.

International pressure was felt by both countries. First on Pakistan after the Jaish e Mohammad terror attack that killed over 40 CRPF troopers in Kashmir, and then on both countries after India went into Pakistan territory to strike at Balkot after which Pakistan responded with the air attack that got the Wing Commander into their custody. #NoMoreWar became a hashtag over the past 24 hours for both countries with netcitizens registering their protest, and maintaining that was was not a solution.

The Wing Commander will return to a hero’s welcome, having become a household name since. His composure and dignity during the interrogation has earned him deep admiration, with Pakistanis joining the Indian clamour for his release.

Interestingly there have been sufficient indications of international intervention. US President Donald Trump spoke earlier in the day of having some good news in the form of de-escalation as phone calls were made between the two capitals. The Saudis seemed to have been rather busy in the negotiations with their envoys dashing around for this goodwill gesture from the Pakistan Prime Minister who has made it clear in the process, that he is for peace and not for escalation. New Delhi will find it more difficult to delink its actions from terrorism, and accept the release of the fighter pilot as the reason for de-escalation. As a former senior Indian envoy said, let us see what happens now.