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No negotiation, deal possible with Pak on IAF pilot's release: Sources

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
Abhinandan Varthaman cannot be a bargaining chip and New Delhi will not strike any deal with Islamabad for his release, top government sources said on Thursday, a day after the IAF pilot was captured following aerial combat between Indian and Pakistani jets.
Asserting that India has not asked for consular access to Wing Commander Varthaman and is insisting on his unconditional and immediate return, the sources said the onus on deescalating tension between the two countries lies entirely on Pakistan.
They said Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale briefed envoys of several countries, including from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, on the Pakistan Air Force targeting Indian military installations in an aggressive manner, resulting in the escalation of tensions.
The Pakistani Air Force on Wednesday carried out a retaliatory strike, a day after Indian struck inside Pakistan, destroying the biggest terrorist training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
On US President Donald Trump's suggesting that the situation between India and Pakistan was de-escalating, the sources said New Delhi has no idea what he was referring to.
Pakistan's efforts to link the release of the pilot with "de-escalation" of tensions with India has not gone down well in New Delhi, they indicated.
In Islamabad, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his government was willing to consider returning the captured IAF pilot if it leads to "de-escalation" of tensions with India.
"We want him back unharmed, unconditionally and immediately. He is not a bargaining chip. There is no question of any deal with Pakistan on his return," a source said.
According to the sources, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has to walk the talk on investigating the February 14 Pulwama attack.
India, they stressed, wants immediate, credible and verifiable action against terrorists and their proxies.
Pakistan has to take concrete steps against JeM, the sources said when asked about Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's offer of talks with India. They added that Pakistan was deliberately whipping up war psychosis and trying to mislead the international community on the situation.
The sources also questioned Khan's statement on Wednesday that two Indian jets were downed in an air combat and asked "was he not briefed or did he say an untruth".
Denouncing Pakistan's breach of the Line of Control, they said their air force "specifically targeted Indian military facilities, while we targeted only JeM terror camp".
Asked on talks with Khan, the sources said Pakistan must first take "concrete and specific anti-terror steps".
The sources said India did not share actionable intelligence with Pakistan about involvement of JeM in the Pulwama terror attack and instead targeted its terrorist training camp in Balakot as no result had yielded after actionable intelligence was shared with Islamabad following the Mumbai and Pathankot attacks.
About Wednesday's aerial raid by Pakistan, the sources said over 20 aircraft flew towards Indian air space. Of these, a few crossed the Line of Control and targeted Indian military facilities.
They fired laser guided bombs and narrowly missed our military installations, the sources said, rejecting Pakistan PM Khan's remarks that the Pakistani jets did not target Indian defence bases.

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First Published: Feb 28 2019 | 4:45 PM IST

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