Pakistan closes airspace as India tensions rise: aviation authority

Businessmen civil society organisations hold demonstration set on fire the Indian flag and effigy of Modi.— AFP  File
Businessmen civil society organisations hold demonstration set on fire the Indian flag and effigy of Modi.— AFP File

28 February, 2019

The aerial attacks across the LoC are the first since a war between the two countries in 1971. "Let's sit and settle this with talks".

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi alleged the Indian government is issuing threatening statements in the aftermath of Pulwama incident on the pretext of terrorism just to divert the world opinion from rights violations in Kashmir. He appeared in good health as he was questioned about his hometown, his aircraft and his mission.

Both armies accused the other of shelling villages and opposition army posts across the line of control that separates Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir.

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. "Now the global diplomatic community should exert maximum pressure on Pakistan so this situation does not spiral".

Pakistani Major General Asif Ghafoor says one of the pilots was captured after his plane crashed in Pakistani-held Kashmir, while the other fighter jet crashed on the Indian side.

Ghafoor said Wing Cmdr.

He also confirmed that Pakistani troops captured two pilots.

By Wednesday evening, the two top trends on Twitter in India were about the pilot, with many Indians demanding his release under a #BringBackAbhinandan hashtag.

"We have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm".

"In the aerial engagement, a Pakistan fighter aircraft was shot down by a MiG-21 Bison".

On Tuesday, India responded with an air strike on what it described as a militant training camp inside Pakistan, saying it had killed "a large number of terrorists".

After the Indian planes were downed Wednesday, Kahn said in a televised speech that the two nations should settle their dispute with diplomacy.

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Witnesses said soldiers fired in the air to keep residents away from the crash site.

"The officers of the Pakistani Army have looked after me well, they are thorough gentlemen", he said.

The latest wave of tensions erupted after a pre-dawn strike by Indian aircraft Tuesday on Pakistani territory.

Residents on both sides of the de-facto frontier, the so-called Line of Control, said there were exchanges of fire between the two sides through the night. Hundreds of villagers fled border towns in both India and Pakistan.

Pakistan earlier said it had launched air strikes across the LoC, while Indian authorities said the Pakistani warplanes had been pushed back.

For Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, not responding to a much-publicised India attack could mean political suicide; for the Pakistan army, the lack of a response could deeply erode their popular legitimacy and the morale of the rank and file.

This is in contrast to the India's non-military anti-terror pre-emptive strike at a JeM terrorist camp in Balakot on 26 February 2019.

The Pakistani civil and military officials have rejected the claim.

Lu's statement came soon after foreign minister Wang Yi also urged New Delhi and Islamabad to be restrained.

"It is unfortunate that instead of fulfilling its global obligation and bilateral commitment to take credible action against terrorist entities and individuals operating from its soil, Pakistan has acted with aggression against India", the MEA stated. Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based militant group, claimed responsibility.

Tensions have been elevated since a suicide vehicle bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on February 14, but the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Tuesday when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base.

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