Pakistan-India tensions: Narendra Modi says India will 'fight as one' in first comments since downing of planes over Kashmir

Pakistan's Imran Khan has urged India to engage in talks and let 'better sense prevail'

Adam Withnall
Delhi
Thursday 28 February 2019 10:02
Comments
Indian pilots captured after being shot down by Pakistan forces

Narendra Modi has accused his country’s enemies of “trying to destabilise us” and vowed that India would “fight, live, work and win as one” in his first remarks since the downing of aircraft over Kashmir on Wednesday morning.

Though he did not mention Pakistan by name, the prime minister suggested “the world is observing” India’s response to the rising tensions between the two countries.

Mr Modi said it was crucial that nothing be allowed to undermine faith in India’s armed forces - “that our enemies don't get the chance to question us”.

The prime minister was addressing a large rally of supporters for his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) via video conference from Delhi.

All eyes are on India’s response after a dogfight in the skies over disputed Kashmir in which India says one Pakistani and one Indian fighter jet were shot down. Pakistan says it shot down two Indian planes and denies any losses.

The Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has urged calm and invited Mr Modi to engage in talks, saying that “better sense must prevail” between the two nuclear-armed countries.

In his video address, Mr Modi praised the armed forces and said India’s “brave soldiers are showing their valour at the border and beyond”.

That appeared to be a reference to heavy gunfire across the Kashmir line of control, the de facto border in the disputed region, since Wednesday’s aerial engagement and the preceding Indian airstrikes on what it described as a militant training camp in Pakistan.

On Thursday morning troops from the two countries briefly exchanged fire in Poonch, a district in Indian-administered Kashmir, according to a statement from the Indian army.

"The Indian army retaliated strongly and effectively," said Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand, a defence ministry spokesman.

The firing, that India claims was initiated by Pakistan and lasted for a little over an hour beginning at 6am local time (12.30am GMT), was nonetheless significantly less fierce than the artillery fire exchanged by the two sides on Wednesday.

International powers, including the US and China, have urged the two countries to exercise caution and deescalate tensions, which have been rising since the bombing of an Indian paramilitary convoy in Kashmir on 14 February caused the heaviest casualties in the region’s 30-year insurgency.

At a news conference in Hanoi regarding his failed nuclear talks with Kim Jong-un, the US’s Donald Trump said American diplomats had been mediating between the two sides.

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"They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop," Mr Trump said. "We have been in the middle trying to help them both out.”

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