New Delhi Correspondent
In an escalation of hostilities, fighter planes of India and Pakistan were on Wednesday engaged in an aerial battle over Jammu and Kashmir and New Delhi said Indian Air Force has shot down a Pakistan Air Force plane.
India also said that Pakistani war planes targeted Indian military installations but their attempts were “foiled successfully.”
A day after Indian war planes targeted a training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Pakistan based on credible evidence that JeM intended to launch more attacks in India,
“Pakistan has responded on Wednesday morning by using its Air Force to target military installations on the Indian side,” the spokesperson of India’s External Affairs Ministry said in a statement. However, “due to high state of India’s readiness and alertness, Pakistan’s attempts were foiled successfully,” he said.
The spokesperson said, “the Pakistan Air Force was detected and the Indian Air Force responded instantly. In that aerial engagement, one Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft was shot down by a MiG 21 Bison of the Indian Air Force,” he said.
“The Pakistani aircraft was seen by ground forces falling from the sky on the Pakistan side,” said the spokesperson adding” in this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG 21 and the Indian pilot is missing in action.”
With regard to Pakistan’s claim that Indian pilot is in their custody, the spokesperson said “we are ascertaining the facts.”
Government sources said the Pakistan Air Force plane shot down by India over Rajouri sector in Jammu and Kashmir was an F-16 aircraft which fell on the Pakistani side.
The Pakistani army on Wednesday intensely shelled Indian posts in Uri Sector of Jammu and Kashmir but there were no reports of casualty, officials said. The Pakistani troops targeted towards Indian posts with mortar shells in the early hours of Wednesday, a police official in Jammu and Kashmir said.
The police official said the Indian army hit back in equal measure, triggering exchange of fire across the de facto border between the two countries in Uri sector. Indian forces flattened five Pakistani bunkers and three Indian troops were wounded in firing by Pakistani forces.
In the midst of worsening tensions, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi left an event in New Delhi early and met top officials including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, the Defence and Foreign Secretaries and intelligence officials. Modiwas briefed about the latest security situation following violation of Indian airspace by Pakistani fighter jets in Jammu and Kashmir and the aerial confrontation in which one Pakistani jet and an IAF MiG 21 were shot down.
Separately, top security and intelligence officials were in a huddle earlier in the day at the Prime Minister’s office in the wake of fresh developments that followed India’s airstrike at a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Pakistan. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, senior officials of the Indian Navy, Army and the Air Force and other security officials met to discuss the current security situation, they said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Indian authorities ordered nine airports in north India, including Amritsar, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Jammu, Srinagar and Leh, to shut down but the order was withdrawn within hours.
India has been in a state of high alert amid warnings of retaliation by Pakistan a day after IAF fighter jets destroyed a terror camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunwa province in a pre-dawn strike on Tuesday.
India said it was a “non-military and pre-emptive” strike based on credible inputs that Jaish was training suicide bombers for more attacks like Pulwama where 40 Indian paramilitary men were killed on February 14.
Hours after the duel between Indian and Pakistani planes, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called for talks with India and said the “sole purpose” to carry out strikes across de facto bordreL was to tell India that “if they can come here, we can go there too”. In his address to Pakistan, Khan said two Indian MIG 21s which “crossed the LoC” were shot down.
“From here, it is imperative that we use our heads and act with wisdom,” he said, adding that the action was to “convey that if you can come into our country, we can do the same.”
Citing the Pulwama terror attack by a Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber in which 40 Indian paramilitary men were killed, Khan said he “understands the grief” but “better sense must prevail” and the issue must be “settle(d) with talks.”
Reiterating that war is not a solution, Khan said “if it (tensions between the two countries) escalates, it will no longer be in my control or in Modi’s”. “All wars are miscalculated, and no one knows where they lead to.
India doesn’t want to see escalation
New Delhi Correspondent
A day after India’s warplanes destroyed Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camps in Pakistan, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said her country “does not wish to see further escalation of the situation” and that “will continue to act with responsibility and restrain.”
Addressing the 16th meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, China and India in the trilateral format in the Chinese city of Wuzhen, Swaraj justified Tuesday’s action by IAF planes destruction of terror camps in Balakot saying this was done “in the light of continuing refusal of Pakistan to acknowledge and act against terror groups on its territory and based on credible information that Jaish-e-Mohammed was planning other attacks in various parts of India.”
She made it clear that it was not a military operation and the target was selected in order to avoid civilian causalities and that no military installations were targeted.
“The limited objective of the pre-emptive strike was to act decisively against the terrorist infrastructure of JeM in order to pre-empt another terror attack in India,” an official text of Swaraj’s speech made available by the Indian External Affairs Ministry quoted her as saying.
“In the light of continuing refusal of Pakistan to acknowledge and act against terror groups on its territory, and based on credible information that JeM was planning other attacks in various parts of India, Government of India decided to take pre-emptive action,”she remarked .
“India does not wish to see further escalation of the situation. India will continue to act with responsibility and restrain,” Swaraj said.
She said, “Terrorism tops the list of the existential threats that the world faces today. Pointing to the recent heinous terrorist attack on our security forces in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, perpetrated by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based and supported terrorist organization proscribed by the United Nations and other countries. We lost more than 40 personnel from our Central Reserve Police Force while several others are injured seriously.”
“Such dastardly terrorist attacks are a grim reminder for the need for all the countries to show zero tolerance to terrorism and take decisive action against it. Following the Pulwama terrorist attack, instead of taking seriously the calls by international community to act against Jaish-e-Mohammad and other terror groups based in Pakistan, Pakistan denied any knowledge of the attack and outrightly dismissed claims by Jaish-e-Mohammed,” Swaraj said.
Imran Khan offers talks with India
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called for talks to de-escalate rising tensions with India over Kashmir. “Can we afford any miscalculation with the kind of weapons that we have and you have?” he said in a televised statement after both sides said they had shot down each other’s warplanes, reports AFP.
“I once again invite India to come to the negotiating table,” said Khan, who has called for dialogue with New Delhi in the past.
“Better sense should prevail,” he added, before alluding to the nuclear arsenal of both South Asian countries.
“If escalation begins from here, where will it go?”
Khan also repeated the military’s earlier statement that it had shot down two Indian Air Force planes, which sent tensions spiralling on Wednesday, fuelling fears of a fresh conflict between India and Pakistan.
“Today we shot down two Indian MiGs which crossed our border,” he said,
adding: “Pilots are with us”.
India has said that just one of its planes was shot down, but that it also shot down a Pakistani fighter jet in air battles over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
The Pakistani military has denied that any of its planes were downed.