A couple of days ago an Indian pilot flying a MiG-21 was shot down by the Pakistani military. The pilot was captured and detained. Very recently the pilot has been returned to the Indian military. I've heard it reported in the media that the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the pilot has been released as a "gesture of peace".
India's Minister of State for External Affairs tweeted:
It must be understood that #Pakistan has not done us a favor by returning #WingCommanderAbhinandan. Under the #GenevaConvention, a serving soldier captured during conflict has to be returned. We must not forget that after 1971, we released over 90,000 PoW from Pakistan.
I think I have heard the same thing said by others.
The term Geneva Convention is often used loosely to cover the four Geneva Conventions and its three additional protocols added after 1949. In any case:
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for humanitarian treatment in war.
Geneva Conventions - Wikipedia
Since the two countries are not at war, does the Geneva Convention apply? And which part of it addresses this situation?
Also, the claim that a "serving soldier captured during conflict has to be returned" only applies to when a state of war or conflict ceases to exist between the countries, correct? I imagine generally POWs are detained for the duration of a war, or does this contravene the Geneva Convention also? Also in the case of military conflicts that are not categorized as wars, are the captors obliged by the Geneva Convention to return the captive to his home state? This seems quite counterintuitive to me as most likely the returned soldier would be simply put on fighting duty again.