India said it shot down one of Pakistan’s fighter jets during an aerial engagement over Kashmir, hours after Pakistan claimed to have downed two Indian jets and captured two pilots.
A spokesperson for the Indian foreign ministry said both sides lost one aircraft each in the same exchange and that an Indian pilot was “missing in action”. The clash took place earlier on Wednesday as Pakistan launched an air raid targeting military installations on the Indian side of the border.
The Pakistan air raid was itself a retaliation for an Indian air force operation on Tuesday to target what Delhi described as a major training camp, well inside Pakistan’s territory, belonging to a militant group. Pakistan denied any damage to infrastructure and described the airstrike as “a grave aggression”.
Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told reporters attempts were still being made to “ascertain the facts” regarding the missing pilot, but confirmed Pakistan “claimed he is in their custody”. He said India’s jets had been on a “high state of readiness” and had “foiled successfully” the Pakistan raid.
Moments after Mr Kumar’s statement, the Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan issued a live TV statement urging India to “sit down and talk” about the escalating crisis.
Mr Khan compared the current situation to the lead-up to the First and Second World Wars, saying that “all wars in the world have been started on miscalculations”.
In an apparent reference to their shared nuclear capabilities, he said: “I ask India, with our weapons capability ... on both sides, can we afford a miscalculation? It will neither be in my control nor [Indian prime minister Narendra] Modi’s.
“Better sense should prevail,” he concluded.
Earlier, Pakistan claimed to have shot down not one but two Indian aircraft. An armed forces spokesperson said two Indian pilots had been detained, one of whom was being treated in a military hospital, and shared a video purporting to show one of the pilots, bloodied and blindfolded.
The recent chain of events started on 14 February with the deadliest car bombing in the history of the Kashmiri separatist insurgency, when a local man blew up an Indian paramilitary convoy, killing 40 officers.
India blamed Pakistan for harbouring the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group which claimed the attack. India said its operation on Tuesday morning, the first airstrikes across the Kashmir line of control since 1971, were “based on credible evidence that JeM intended to launch more attacks”.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning the Pakistani police claimed Indian shelling across the treaty-agreed line of control in Kashmir had killed at least six civilians on the Pakistan side.
Indian and Pakistani forces regularly exchange fire across the border region, but observers say fighting has been particularly fierce since news broke of India’s air sortie on Tuesday.
Countries including Australia, the US, China and Russia urged both sides to show restraint and avoid escalating the conflict further. India and Pakistan have fought three major wars over the Kashmir dispute, though not for nearly four decades.
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