India demands Pakistan release pilot as Kashmir crisis intensifies


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India has demanded the release of a fighter pilot shot down by Pakistan warplanes in a major escalation between the two nuclear powers over Kashmir.

Video showing the pilot – blindfolded and with blood on his face – was shared by Pakistan’s information ministry.

India described the images as a “vulgar display of an injured personnel”.

Wednesday’s aerial attacks across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Indian and Pakistani territory in Kashmir are the first since a war in 1971.

The incident, in which Pakistan said it had shot down two military jets, has escalated tensions between the two nations, both of whom claim all of Kashmir, but control only parts of it.

It comes a day after India struck what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed at least 40 Indian troops in Kashmir – the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir.

A Pakistan-based group said it carried out the attack.

What happened to the pilot?

The Indian Air Force pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan, had been reported “missing in action” by Indian officials.

Images then circulated of his capture were both condemned for what appeared to be a physical attack at the hands of residents in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, and praised for the actions of the Pakistani soldiers who intervened to create a barrier.

Pakistan’s information ministry published – but subsequently deleted – a video purporting to show the blindfolded pilot, who could be heard requesting water, after he had been captured.

He then appeared to answer a number of questions including his name and military position before refusing to share any details when asked about his mission: “I’m not supposed to tell you that.”

Pakistan’s military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said the pilot was being “treated as per norms of military ethics”.

What were the air strikes about?

Maj Gen Ghafoor said that Pakistan fighter jets had carried out “strikes” – exactly what they did remains unclear – in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday.

Two Indian air force jets then responded, crossing the de facto border that divides Kashmir. “Our jets were ready and we shot both of them down,” he said.

He added that one Indian pilot was in the custody of the Pakistani army. Officials had previously said two pilots had been captured and one had been taken to hospital.

No explanation has been given as to why the numbers have changed.

Pakistan’s information ministry also tweeted what it said was footage of one of the downed Indian jets.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said jets had “engaged” six targets in Indian territory but then carried out air strikes on “open ground”.

“We don’t want to go on the path of war,” he said.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar acknowledged the loss of a MiG-21 fighter jet and its pilot.

He also said that an Indian plane had shot down a Pakistani fighter jet, and Indian ground forces observed it falling on the Pakistani side of the LoC. Pakistan denied any of its jets had been hit.

What have India and Pakistan said?

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a televised address that the two sides could not afford a miscalculation “given the weapons we have”.

“We should sit down and talk,” he said.

“If we let it happen, it will remain neither in my nor Narendra Modi’s control,” he said.

“Our action is just to let them know that just like they intruded into our territory, we are also capable of going into their territory,” he added.

Mr Modi has yet to comment but was meeting top security and intelligence officials to discuss the situation, reports in India said.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said her country would act “with responsibility and restraint”.

“India does not wish to see further escalation of the situation,” she said, speaking from a meeting with Russian and Chinese foreign ministers in China.

Source : BBC


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