Islamabad captured an Indian pilot a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a 1971 war.
Tension has been running high since a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police earlier this month.
But the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Tuesday when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base.
New Delhi claimed at least 300 militants were killed in Tuesday’s strike, while Pakistan says no one was killed.
The White House condemned the intensifying conflict and urged “both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation”.
Pakistan’s envoy to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan, said Islamabad would like to see the Trump administration play a more active role in easing the crisis. “We would certainly like to have more, and would certainly like to see more active involvement of the United States,” he told reporters.
At the same time, he said the lack of US condemnation of India’s strike on Pakistan is “construed and understood as an endorsement of the Indian position, and that is what emboldened them even more.”
Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan called for talks with India and hoped “better sense” would prevail so that both sides could de-escalate.
“History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation. My question is that, given the weapons we have, can we afford miscalculation,” Mr Khan said during a brief televised broadcast to the nation. “We should sit down and talk.”
The Pakistan government’s official Twitter account released a video of a man it claimed was an Indian pilot who had been shot down.
The man, whom Pakistan has named as Wing Commander Abhi Nandan and whose face was bloodied and blindfolded, gives his name and service number before telling a man questioning him: “I’m sorry sir, that’s all I’m supposed to tell you.”
A statement from India’s foreign ministry said the pilot’s treatment was a “vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention,” ordering his immediate release. India has not yet named the pilot.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from British colonial rule in 1947, two over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, and went to the brink of a fourth in 2002 after a Pakistani militant attack on India’s parliament.
The latest escalation marks a sudden turnaround in relations between the two countries, both of which claim Kashmir in full, but only rule in part.
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Welcome to The Independent's coverage on the escalation between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan's military spokesperson had said they "do not want to escalate the crisis with India".
"[We] do not want to take the region to war," he added.
Pakistan has refuted India's denial and has now claimed they have captured two pilots.
Pakistan had said it had "no choice" but to respond to India's attack on its territory but did not want to escalate the crisis and avoided hitting military targets or causing casualties in an air strike, the main military spokesman said.
Major General Asif Ghafoor, head of the military press wing, said Pakistani jets had locked on to six targets in a demonstration of their capacity to hit key installations but had deliberately avoided causing any damage.
"We engaged a nearby open space where there were no humans or military installation," he told a news conference in Islamabad.
Here is the chronology of the latest escalations according to Pakistan:
- Pakistani aircraft fired on Indian targets in "open ground" from within their airspace to demonstrate their capabilities.
- In response two Indian jets were scrambled and flew into Pakistani airspace.
- These jets were shot down and two Indian pilots have been captured by Pakistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Wednesday the group has not issued any press statement about the ongoing clashes between India and Pakistan.
Mujahid told Reuters that "the statement circulating about their comments on India, Pakistan clashes was fake".
We have not said that India, Pakistan clashes will affect the Afghan peace process. The press statement shared on social media and with news companies is fake."
Indian news reports say that airports in the Indian portion of Kashmir have been closed for civilian traffic shortly after an Indian air force jet crashed in the area.
The Press Trust of India news agency says these airports are located at Srinagar, Jammu and Leh. Indian authorities declined to comment.
Pakistan Armed Forces spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor has said that Air Force jets selected six “non-military” targets in Indian administered Kashmir and locked these targets.
"But we did not fire at these targets and instead fired at a safe distance just to show we were capable but did not," he said.
Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan will be making a statement about the escalations shortly.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo urged India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and avoid escalation at any cost, after Pakistan carried out air strikes and shot down two Indian jets on Wednesday.
He said he had spoken to foreign ministers from India and Pakistan and "encouraged both Ministers to prioritise direct communication and avoid further military activity."
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