A Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter aircraft was shot down by the Indian Air Force (IAF) during an engagement on Wednesday morning, according to officials.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said one MiG 21 ''Bison'' aircraft of the IAF was lost while engaging with the PAF and its pilot ''missing in action''. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody.
Earlier, Pakistan claimed that its fighter jets entered the Indian airspace in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch and Nowshera sectors, a day after India carried out early morning air strikes on a major terror camp operated by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Pakistan's Balakot. It also claimed to have shot down two IAF aircraft and arrested one pilot.
However, following is an AFP fact check, which says Pakistan's claim is false:
''Multiple posts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and mainstream media reports contain photos purporting to show two Indian Air Force jets shot down by Pakistan in Kashmir. This claim is false; the images are from two separate plane crashes — one in 2016 in Rajasthan and the other in 2015 in Odisha.''
The air strikes by India followed the February 14 Pulwama terror attack by the JeM, claiming the lives of 40 CRPF personnel.
Pakistan initiated cross-LoC (Line of Control) shelling in the early hours of Wednesday.
As it happened: the Balakot air strikes
Here are the latest updates:
Fathima Bhutto seeks release of captured Indian pilot
Author Fatima Bhutto, the grand daughter of former Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto asked the Imran Khan government to release the captured Indian Air Force pilot.
“I and many other young Pakistanis have called upon our country to release the captured Indian pilot as a gesture of our commitment to peace, humanity and dignity,” Ms. Bhutto, 36, wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times.
“We have spent a lifetime at war. I do not want to see Pakistani soldiers die. I do not want to see Indian soldiers die. We cannot be a subcontinent of orphans,” she said.
She said Pakistan’s recent history was bloody and no one has suffered more violence than its own citizens.
“But our long history with military dictatorships and experience of terrorism and uncertainty means that my generation of Pakistanis have no tolerance, no appetite, for jingoism or war,” she said.
Pak military top brass apprise lawmakers about growing confrontation with India
Pakistan’s top military and civil officials Wednesday gave an in-camera briefing to the lawmakers about the escalating tensions with India following the Pulwama terror attack.
The briefing was arranged by the government at the Parliament House in order to take the opposition parties into confidence about the current security situation.
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was present with other military officials, including army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor.
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani were also present.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi briefed the leaders on the government’s strategy, while Ghafoor apprised them about the military aspects of the current situation.
The participants were also briefed about the National Command Authority meeting that took place earlier in the day.
Twitterati talk peace
Amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan, some of the trending hashtags on Twitter on Wednesday were talking about bringing peace to the region —— along with the call to bring back the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot in Pakistan’s custody.
Among them was the #SayNoToWar in the top five trending hashtags.
The reason #SayNoToWar started trending on the popular social media platform was that people in both the countries shared messages of peace and expressed their concern with that hashtag.
Pakistani army violated ceasefire for the sixth consecutive day and resorted to firing and heavy mortar shelling on forward posts along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district, prompting Indian Army to retaliate befittingly.
The Indian Army destroyed five Pakistani posts along the Line of Control in J&K on Tuesday night in a befitting retaliation to firing from across the border, resulting in a “number of casualties” to Pak troops, officials said.
Five jawans suffered injuries in the heavy Pakistan shelling, they said.
3 Pakistani jets unsuccessfully targeted key Indian military installations: sources
Three Pakistani fighter jets entered into Indian air space at 9:58 a.m. on Wednesday targeting key military installations in Rajouri and Nowshera in Jammu and Kashmir, as they sought to retaliate India's pre-dawn counter-terror strike a day earlier deep inside Pakistan, official sources said.
Though three Pakistani jets violated Indian air space, the package of the aircraft deployed by Pakistan Air Force for the operation was "significantly large" as it comprised a fleet of JF-17 and F-16 combat aircraft, the sources said.
Sources said the Pakistani jets targeted the Indian Army bases in Krishna Ghati and Nangi Tekri and an ammunition point in Narian. However, the bombs dropped by the Pakistani jets fell in uninhabited areas.
Minutes after Pakistani jets violated the Indian air space, the IAF's Combat Air Patrol (CAP), comprising MiG-21 and other jets engaged with the enemy aircraft, successfully thwarting their attempts to bomb a number of key military installations in Naushera and Rajouri, they said.
In the ensuing engagement, a MiG-21 Bison of the IAF shot down a Pakistani jet, firing an R-73 air-to-air missile before being hit. It was not clear whether the IAF jet was fired from a Pakistani jet or was brought down by a missile attack by ground-based air defence, the sources said.
They said the jet Pakistan lost was an F-16 aircraft. Pakistan has denied losing any jet.
India confirmed that an IAF pilot has been captured by Pakistan during the fierce engagement. The IAF sources identified him as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
Sources said all Indian personnel, except one pilot, returned to their bases after the engagement ended at around 10:45 a.m.
The sources said that two parachutes were sighted — one was of the Indian pilot of the MIG-21 Bison and other was of the Pakistani pilot of the downed jet.
The Pakistani retaliatory strike came a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a 1971 war, destroying the biggest terrorist training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Pakistan.
The Indian air strike came after the February 14 terror attack carried out by the JeM in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. — PTI
Pakistan Army says only one Indian pilot is under its custody
"There is only one pilot under Pakistan Army’s custody. Wing Comd Abhi Nandan is being treated as per norms of military ethics," Pakistan millitary spokesperson Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor tweets.
Earlier, Pakistan media released a video footage of Wg. Cdr. Abhi Nandan in the Army's custody.
India has not yet responded to Pakistan's claims. It had earlier said one pilot was "missing in action".
MEA summons Pak. Deputy High Commissioner, objects to Pakistan's "vulgar display" of injured Indian pilot
The MEA summons Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah and lodges strong protest over the Pakistan Air Force's attack on India's military installations.
A statement released by the MEA says India has lodged "a strong protest at the unprovoked act of aggression by Pakistan."
India strongly objects to Pakistan's "vulgar display" of an injured personnel of the IAF in violation of international humanitarian laws and the Geneva Convention.
India, Pak. must de-escalate tensions: Farooq Abdullah
National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah calls for de-escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan and asks both the countries to maintain “maximum restraint” for the “greater good of humanity”.
In a statement issued by the party, he says, “History bears testimony to the fact that war did not help both the neighbours resolve their long pending issues. It is in the interest of our region if both the countries shun war rhetoric.”
“I urge both the countries to shun violence for the greater good of people living in both the countries especially for the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he adds.
Asaduddin Owaisi expresses concern over 'missing' Indian pilot
All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi expresses concern over the Indian pilot who was “missing in action” and asserts that Pakistan must respect its obligations under the Geneva Conventions.
“Our prayers are with the brave IAF pilot & his family in this very difficult time", he tweets.
Imran asks India to come to dialogue table
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan calls on India to come to the dialogue table and discuss any concerns it has around the Pulwama terror attack. He also promised to investigate any involvement of Pakistanis in the attack, reiterating the offer he made after the terror incident.
He claims that two IAF MiG aircraft were shot down by his forces and the pilots are in Pakistan custody.
Addressing the Indian government, he warns of the dangers of miscalculation and points to previous wars and America's long involvement in Afghanistan and Vietnam.
In a televised address, he says:
“Given the weapons India and Pakistan have, can we afford a miscalculation?
“I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation? If this [situation] escalates, it will no longer be in my control or in [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi’s.
“I again invite you...let's talk on terrorism... we are ready, but better sense should prevail and we should resolve our issues through dialogue. Let’s sit together and settle this with talks.”
MiG 21 aircraft lost in engagement, pilot “missing in action”, says MEA
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) says in a statement, “We have lost one MiG 21 aircraft and the pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed they have him in custody. We are investigating that claim.”
MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar says, “The Indian Air force shot down one Pakistan Air Force plane and ground forces have seen falling on the Pakistan side. India had informed on counter-terror action taken yesterday against the JeM camp. Pakistan has responded by using its Air Force to target military installations on our side. But [their action] was foiled successfully.”
Text of MEA statement :
'' India had informed about Counter Terrorism (CT) action it took yesterday against a training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Pakistan based on credible evidence that JeM intended to launch more attacks. Against this Counter Terrorism Action, Pakistan has responded this morning by using its Air Force to target military installations on the Indian side. Due to our high state of readiness and alertness, Pakistan’s attempts were foiled successfully.
''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. The Pakistani aircraft was seen by ground forces falling from the sky on the Pakistan side. In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG 21. The pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts.''
Airspace closure lifted, says AAI
The airspace closure has been lifted and airports will be be reopened, Guruprasad Mohapatra, AAI chief tells The Hindu.
Operations at all nine airports, which were shut for civilian traffic, have resumed as of now, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said.
Top security, intel officials meet at PMO
Top security and intelligence officials are at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in the wake of violation of the Indian airspace by PAF jets, sources say.
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, senior officials of the Indian Navy, Army and the Air Force and other security officials are holding a meeting to discuss the current security situation, they say.
Pakistan releases footage of man who claims he’s an IAF officer
PTI reports: : In a 46-second video released by the Pakistan Army, a blindfolded man claims he’s IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan.
However, the veracity of the video could not be ascertained.
“I am an IAF officer. My service No is 27981,” the man says in the video.
Pakistani military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor has claimed that two IAF pilots were arrested. One is injured and has been shifted to a hospital, while another one is unhurt. One of the aircraft crashed in Pakistan occupied Kashmir while the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir, he added.
Pakistani F-16 shot down
PTI , quoting officials, says a Pakistani Air Force F-16 fighter jet has been shot down in Jhangar area of Jammu.
Details are awaited.
Civilian airspace, airports closed
Our correspondent Jagriti Chandra reports:
Civilian airspace and airports north of Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur, totalling 14, have been closed after IAF instructions at 10.30 am, sources say.
Pakistan has also closed its airspace for all airlines, say the sources.
International flights exiting Indian airspace north of Mumbai are being re-routed through Middle-East.
Following are the airports that have been shut:
Leh, Jammu, Srinagar, Shimla, Dharamshala, Kullu, Ludhiana, Adampur,Bhatinda,Pathankot, Chandigarh, Amritsar,Dehradun, Pantnagar.
Rajnath reviews security situation
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh asks the Directors General of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to be on high alert, reports Vijaita Singh .
Mr. Singh will be heading to Bilaspur in a short while.
Earlier, he chairs a meeting where NSA Ajit Doval and IB chief were present. He reviews the security situation, especially along the border with Pakistan, officials say.
A detailed presentation was made about the security situation in the country and steps taken to ensure peace in all sensitive areas.
At the Delhi airport, flights to Jammu are showing delayed as the Srinagar airspace has been closed temporarily, reports Sandeep Phukan .
Pakistan PM calls meeting of top decision making body on nuclear issues
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has called a meeting of the top decision making body on nuclear issues, reports PTI .
The National Command Authority controls policy formulation, exercises, deployment, research and development, employment and operational command and control of the country’s nuclear arsenal.
The decision to call the NCA meeting was taken on Tuesday in the meeting of National Security Committee - a civil-military top level body that discussed the situation after the Balakot air strikes by the IAF.
Two IAF aircraft shot down, one pilot arrested, claims Pakistan
Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, spokesperson of the Pakistan Armed Forces claims the Pakistan Air Force has shot down two Indian aircraft and one pilot has been arrested. “In response to PAF strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF crossed LOC. PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K while other fell inside IOK. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area,” he tweets.
Following is a statement issued by Pakistan after its warplanes allegedly entered the Indian airspace:
''Today, Pakistan Air Force undertook strikes across Line of Control from within Pakistani airspace. This was not a retaliation to continued Indian belligerence. Pakistan has therefore, taken strikes at non military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage. Sole purpose being to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self defence.
''We have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm. That is why we undertook the action with clear warning and in broad daylight.
''For the last few years, India has been trying to establish what they call “a new normal” a thinly veiled term for doing acts of aggression at whatever pretext they wish on a given day. If India is striking at so called terrorist backers without a shred of evidence, we also retain reciprocal rights to retaliate against elements that enjoy Indian patronage while carrying out acts of terror in Pakistan. We do not wish to go to that route and wish that India gives peace a chance and to resolve issues like a mature democratic nation.''
Pakistan planes 'enter' Indian airspace
Pakistani fighter jets on Wednesday allegedly violated the Indian airspace in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch and Nowshera sectors but were pushed back by Indian aircraft, reports PTI , quoting senior officials.
There were no immediate reports of any casualties or damage.
“The jets entered Indian airspace over Nowshera and Poonch sectors this morning,” the officials said.
They were immediately pushed back by Indian jets on patrol.
IAF aircraft crashes in Budgam
Our correspondent Peerzada Ashiq reports:
Two persons were killed as an IAF aircraft crashed in central Kashmir's Budgam on Wednesday morning. "Two bodies have been found so far. The IAF team will investigate the crash site and provide more details," said Superintendent of Police, Nagpure Amod Ashok.
According to the police, the crash occurred at Garend Kalan in an open field, just seven km away from the Budgam town, around 10:40 a.m. Budgam is adjacent to Srinagar. "We heard two loud sounds," said locals.
Sushma briefs China on Balakot air strikes
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj blames Pakistan’s inaction against the JeM, which is responsible for the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, 2019 — for triggering the strikes by the IAF across the Line of Control , and reiterates that New Delhi is averse to any escalation of tensions with Islamabad.
“In the light of continued refusal of Pakistan to acknowledge and act against terror groups on its territory and based on credible information that JeM is planning other attacks in various parts of India, the Government of India has decided to take pre-emptive action. The target was selected in order to avoid civilian casualties,” Ms. Swaraj says at the plenary foreign ministerial meeting of the Russia-India-China grouping.
U.S. urges Pakistan to take ‘meaningful action’
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that he has spoken to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the topic of taking “meaningful action” against terrorist groups operating on Pakistan soil, following the air strikes by India inside Pakistan .
“I spoke to Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi to underscore the priority of de-escalating current tensions by avoiding military action, and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil,” says Mr. Pompeo in a statment.