Pakistani side of Attari-Wagah land border

The Indian defence establishment was also mulling over sending a special aircraft to Pakistan to bring back Wing Commander Varthaman who was captured by Pakistan during an aerial combat on Wednesday

NEW DELHI: Pakistan has turned down a request by India to send back Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman by aerial route and not through the Attari-Wagah land border, official sources said Friday.

They said hours after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the decision to release Varthaman, India conveyed to Islamabad that he be sent back via the aerial route.

However, late in the night, Pakistan conveyed to India that the pilot will be returned through the Attari-Wagah border and India's request could not be heeded to, the sources said.

Varthaman was captured by Pakistan after his Mig-21 Bison was shot down by a Pakistani jet during a fierce dogfight on Wednesday.

The Indian defence establishment was also mulling sending a special aircraft to Pakistan, the sources said.

The IAF pilot's MiG 21 was shot and he bailed out after bringing down one Pakistani F-16 fighter during the dogfight to repel a Pakistani attack on Wednesday morning.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after Indian fighters bombed terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed's biggest training camp near Balakot deep inside Pakistan early Tuesday. It came 12 days after the JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir's Pulwama, killing 40 soldiers.

The Pakistan Air Force carried out a retaliatory aerial combat, unsuccessfully targeting several Indian military installations.