Pakistan said it had shot down two Indian air force planes on Wednesday morning, and bombed several locations along the line of control in the disputed Kashmir province, in a sharp escalation of hostilities between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the Pakistan Armed Forces official spokesman, said that an Indian pilot — who had bailed out of his plane — had been captured by Pakistani forces in Pakistani-held territory. He added that a second plane was shot down over India’s Kashmir region.
Indian authorities confirmed that one of its planes has crashed over the Budgam region of Kashmir, apparently killing both pilots on board, although the precise circumstances of the crash remained unclear.
In a statement entitled “Pakistan strikes back” on Wednesday morning, the Pakistani government said that it had undertaken strikes across the line of control from within Pakistani airspace. It said that the strike was “not a reaction to continued Indian belligerence”.
The statement said the strikes were intended to “demonstrate our will, our right, our capacity for self-defence. We have no intention of escalation but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm.”
Amid the sharp rise in tensions, India has indefinitely sealed at least three of its airports in the region — Jammu, Leh and Srinagar — to civilian air traffic.
Hostilities between India and Pakistan have escalated sharply since a terror attack killed 40 paramilitary police in Indian-administered Kashmir region on February 14, an attack that was claimed by the Pakistan-based militant Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammad.
On Tuesday, India said that its Mirage warplanes carried out a successful overnight “pre-emptive strike” that destroyed a JeM terror training camp in Balakot, after receiving “credible intelligence” that the group was planning fresh attacks in various parts of India.
Vijay Keshav Gokhale, India’s foreign secretary, said on Tuesday that a “large number” of jihadis, their trainers and commanders were “eliminated” in the strike.
Islamabad confirmed that Indian warplanes crossed the line of control into Pakistani-held airspace for the first time since the two countries went to war in 1971. But the country’s military says that the Indian bombs were dropped in a wooded area and did little damage and caused no casualties.