Wednesday 24 April 2019

India and Pakistan both claim jets downed

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan
Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan

James Mackenzie

India and Pakistan both said they shot down each other's fighter jets yesterday, with Pakistan capturing an Indian pilot a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a 1971 war, prompting world powers to urge restraint.

Both countries have ordered air strikes over the last two days, the first time in history two nuclear-armed powers have done so, while ground forces have exchanged fire in more than a dozen locations.

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 two weeks ago, but the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Tuesday when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base.

A senior Indian government source said 300 militants were killed in Tuesday's strike. Pakistan says no one was killed.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called for talks with India and hoped "better sense" would prevail so 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 broadcast to the nation. "We should sit down and talk."

The Pakistan government's official Twitter account released a video of what it claimed was an Indian pilot who had been shot down.

The man, who Pakistan named as Wing Commander Abhi Nandan, 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", demanding his immediate release.

In a second video on social media, a screenshot of which was shared by the same Pakistan government account, the pilot was seen sipping tea while praising his treatment by Pakistani military.

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 a fourth in 2002 after a Pakistani militant attack on India's parliament.

The escalation marks a sudden turnaround in relations between the two countries, which both claim Kashmir in full but rule in part.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with the foreign ministers of both countries, urging them to avoid "further military activity" after the air strike. (© Reuters)

Irish Independent

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