There have been two important developments so far: Pakistan has announced the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and parts of PAF's F-16 downed by IAF have been presented to the media at a joint armed forces press briefing.
Pakistan Prime Minster Imran Khan’s announcement — that captured IAF pilot will be released tomorrow as a gesture of peace and the “first step” to open negotiations with India — during a joint session of Parliament came barely an hour after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister Khan is ready to talk to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to de-escalate Indo-Pak tensions.
Earlier in the day, the United States, the United Kingdom and France moved a fresh proposal in the United Nations Security Council to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. Multiple countries, including Japan, Canada and Australia, have called for India and Pakistan to de-escalate tensions.
As it happened: aerial confrontation between India and Pakistan
After the Pakistan Air Force violated the Indian airspace on Wednesday and downed a MiG 21 'Bison' and captured its pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called on India to come to the dialogue table and discuss any concerns it had around the February 14 Pulwama terror attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel .
In the early hours of Tuesday, India carried out air strikes on a major terror camp operated by the JeM in Pakistan's Balakot after the Pulwama terror attack.
As it happened: the Balakot air strikes
Here are today's latest updates :
The Home Ministry has banned the Jammu and Kashmir-based group, Jamaat-i-Islami (JeI), as “an unlawful association” under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
In a notification on Thursday, the government said the JeI “has been indulging in activities which are prejudicial to internal security and public order, and have the potential of disrupting the unity and integrity of the country.”
Modi chairs Cabinet meeting
After the CCS meeting, Mr. Modi is chairing a Cabinet meeting.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh says he will visit Wagah to welcome Wg. Cdr. Abhinandan.
Modi chairs CCS meeting
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairs a high-level meeting on security.
Officials sources say the meeting was attended by chiefs of the three Services, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Several other senior officials also attended the meeting held at the prime minister’s residence.
Armed forces briefing begins
The joint press briefing of the three services begins.
Air Vice-Marshall R.G.K. Kapoor of the IAF
Indian Air Force officer addresses first. Pakistan Air Force planes were intercepted. In the aerial combat, one F-16 aircraft was shot down by an IAF MiG Bison. IAF lost one MiG, he says and refers to the capture of the IAF pilot.
He says Pakistan has been spreading factually incorrect statements.
He debunks the Pakistan claim that no F-16s were not used. He says there are enough evidence. IAF is happy about Wing Commander's return.
Army Maj. Gen Bahal begins his briefing.
Pakistan resorted to indiscriminate firing on Feb. 26 and was befittingly retalitated. Given the high level of preparedness Pak designs were foiled. We are in a heightened state of alert, he says.
Admiral Gujral of the Navy
Navy remains poised in all three dimensions to defeat Pakistan's provocations.
When asked about Pakistan pushing for deescalation, the AVM Kapoor says it was Pakistan which escalated and we are prepared
AVM Kapoor says piece of evidence is being presented about the aircraft being used by Pakistan based on electronic signature. Pakistan media reports showing engine parts were not of MiG 21s, he says adding that it could be concluded that F-16s were used.
Whatever we set out to achieve that has been achieved, he says.
When asked about Abhinandhan's release, he says it was in consonance with all Geneva conventions and further comments will be after his release. Up to political leadership to decide on releasing evidence of Balakot strike success, he says.
Now, what appears to be parts of a AMRAAM missiles used only by F-16s are shown.
Students for the safe return of Wing Cmdr. Abhinandan
School students gather for the safe return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, in Hyderabad on Thursday, who was captured by Pakistan armed forces on Wednesday.
Northern Army Commander visits LoC areas amid tension
Amid high tensions along the LoC, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Ranbir Singh visited forward posts in Rajouri Sector to review the operational preparedness and the prevailing security situation.
Accompanied by White Knight Corps Commander, Lt Gen Paramjit Singh, the commander’s visit came as Pakistan fired mortar shells across the Line of Control (LoC) and a Pakistan fighter jet entered Indian territory.
India too suspends Samjhauta Express
India too has decided to suspend operations of the Samjhauta Express on its side due to drastic decline in occupancy especially after the Pulwama terror attack, sources say.
The Railway Board has decided to cancel all operations from the train’s next scheduled run.
Pakistan has already suspended services on its end amidst strain in ties in the aftermath of the February 14 terror attack on CRPF personnel in Pulwama and subsequent developments.
“With no passengers from Pakistan, it makes no sense to run it on our end. Hopefully we will be able to resume services once the tension de-escalates,” a source say.
At least 40 passengers from both countries are believed to be stranded at Attari, the sources say.
Pakistan cancelled the train’s trip on the Wagah-Lahore stretch on its side on February 27, even as 27 passengers — 23 Indians and three Pakistanis — arrived at Attari from Delhi on an Indian rake which left the Old Delhi Railway station at 11.20 pm.
The Wagah station master sent a message to his Attari counterpart that the passenger and parcel train which comes to Attari station from the Pakistan side at 12.30 pm will not be coming till further notice, officials say.
‘Pilot project is over, now it's time to get real’
“ Abhi, abhi ek pilot project ho gaya... abhi real karna hai... pehlo to practice thi ... (Pilot project is over now. Now it's time to get real... before that it was practice,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi says at the ceremony to honour the winners of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizes.
Speaking at the ceremony, he says, “You spend your life in laboratories. You have a tradition of first doing a pilot project. It is later scaled up. So recently a pilot project happened”, as the audience bursts into applause.
Mr. Modi continues, “Now the real one has to be done. Earlier one was a practice. And the real is to actually give a standing ovation to today’s award winners. We will will give a standing ovation.”
A joint press briefing by the Army, Navy and Air Force officers in New Delhi that was scheduled for 5 p.m. today has been postponed to 7 p.m., reports ANI.
Imran Khan announces release of IAF pilot ‘as a peace gesture’
Wing Commander Abhinandhan Vardhaman will be released tomorrow “as a peace gesture”, Dawn quotes Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan as telling a joint session of Parliament.
Mr. Khan also cautions that the situation should not “get out of hand”, otherwise “Pakistan will have to retaliate”.
He reiterates that talks over Kashmir are important. "I have a feeling that the Indian public does not agree with the current government's warmongering. If their media had seen what our media has seen over the past 17 years, they would not have created this war hysteria."
The surprise announcement during a joint session of Parliament comes barely an hour after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister Khan is ready to talk to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to de-escalate Indo-Pak tensions.
The joint session of Parliament is held to discuss rising tension with India.
As Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif takes the floor of the House, Prime Minister Khan apologises for interrupting him and says he wishes to announce that the Indian pilot captured by Pakistan Air Force on Wednesday will be released Friday as a peace gesture.
“In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow (Friday), and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody,” Mr. Khan says.
The announcement is greeted by thumping of desks by Pakistani lawmakers.
Addressing the House, Mr. Khan says, “The only purpose of our strike was to demonstrate our capability and will.” “We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner.”
He warns if India moved ahead with the “aggression”, Pakistan will be forced to retaliate and urged the Indian leadership not to push for escalation as war is not solution to any problem.
Warning that “any miscalculation” from India would result in “disaster”, he says, “Countries are ruined because of miscalculation. War is not a solution. If India takes any action, we will have to retaliate.”
Mr. Khan, however, says that Pakistan’s “desire for de-escalation” should not be misconstrued as its weakness.
“Our armed forces are battle-hardened and they are fully prepared to respond to any aggression,” he says.
He says, “Pakistan is a peace loving country” and desires peace and stability in the region.
Mr. Khan says he “tried to call” the Indian Prime Minister on the phone on February 27 because “escalation is not in our interests nor in India’s“.
He urges the international community to play its role in de-escalation for peace and stability in the region.
Germany concerned about current state of affairs
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says, “We are very concerned about the current state of affairs. We know that the situation in Kashmir is not how we wish it to be. But it is up to both sides. There is terror on the ground. In Pakistan too every effort must be made to ensure that terrorist organisations which are known to have their base in Pakistan, are combated."
Ministry asks YouTube to delete video
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology directs YouTube to delete videos that depict the capture of Wing Commander Abhinandan and the debris of MiG 21, a senior official of the Ministry says.
The step was taken as per directions from the Ministry of Home Affairs, he adds.
United States NSA Bolton, Doval talk over phone
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval had a telephonic conversation on February 27, says official sources in New Delhi.
On February 15, they had a talk, during which they resolved to hold Pakistan to account for its obligations under the U.N. resolutions and remove all obstacles to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. Mr. Bolton supported India’s right to self-defence against cross-border terrorism and offered all assistance to India to bring the perpetrators and backers of the attack promptly to justice. — PTI
I'm confident that Abhinandan will be back safely: ex-envoy to Pak. G. Parthasarathy
Former envoy to Pakistan G. Parthasarathy, who played a key role in bringing back IAF pilot K. Nachiketa during the 1999 Kargil war, expresses confidence that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman too will return safely.
Mr. Parthasarthy recollects that growing international pressure forced Pakistan to come up with a “goodwill gesture” of releasing Nachiketa, a Flight Lieutenant who was forced to eject in Pakistan territory after his jet developed a technical snag 20 years ago.
“I am confident that Abhinandan would be back safely. I have no doubts about it. Pakistan has to abide by the Geneva Convention [of 1929], they just can’t violate it,” he tells PTI .
Mr. Parthasarathy, then Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad, was at the helm of the negotiations for Nachiketa’s release.
“The [Kargil] war [was] getting politically uncomfortable for Pakistan. People [the international community] realised that they [Pakistan] had started the war through intrusion,” he says.
“And, at that point of time, Pakistan was heavily dependent on Americans, and the Bill Clinton administration had turned the screws on them. So, as a show of goodwill gesture, Pakistan decided to release our pilot,” he says.
Pakistan wanted to make “a media spectacle” of the release. “But I insisted that the release had to be in accordance to the Geneva Convention, which Pakistan agreed to.”
On the ongoing situation on the border, he says that with the U.S., France and the U.K. moving a fresh proposal in the U.N. Security Council to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, it’s a “diplomatic win” for India.
“The international recognition acted in a measured manner and is a positive. Obviously, no one wants it to escalate beyond a point. So, the government will have to think over what needs to be done to respond to yesterday’s provocation by Pakistan,” he says. — PTI
Pakistan's claim of not targeting Indian military installations false: Defence Ministry
India's Defence Ministry officials say that Pakistan’s claims that its air force did not target Indian military installations during Wednesday’s air intrusion is false.
Pakistan jets clearly targeted multiple military installations in Nowshera and Rajouri sector but their attempts were foiled by IAF's combat patrol team, they say.
The alertness of the armed forces remains at the highest level. Leaves of security forces have not been cancelled, though leaves of personnel holding important positions are being curtailed, say sources.
There has been no mobilisation of ground forces yet and that some forces are ready to move at short notice, the sources add. — PTI
SP slams PM’s address to BJP workers
Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav hits out at the BJP for going ahead with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to its workers through a mega video-conference amid the tension with Pakistan.
In a tweet, he says, “When the entire nation is standing along with the government as an Indian rising above politics, BJP is going to make a record of contact with booth level workers ..even the BJP supporters are ashamed of this.”
“The situation could be very bad but this suited-booted BJP will continue with its festivities...condemnable,” he states. — PTI
War or warlike situation for political interest not right: Raj Thackeray
Mahrashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, in a statement, calls for the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan and resolution of the tension through peace talks.
"War can never be a solution to any issue. In fact, a war is damaging and takes a country back on all levels. The Kashmiri population will be crushed and we cannot afford to do that. terrorists and terrorism must be ruthlessly eradicated, but for that, to wage a war or warlike situations for one's political interest is not right," the statement reads.
"Both nations should resolve the issues through constructive talks and foster a peaceful environment. If Pakistan is really sincere in their offer of constructive talks, then the first step in this direction must come from them," he says.
Mr. Thackeray asks Pakistan to release Wing Commander Abhinandan immediately and that Pakistan declare ceasefire across the border.
"If this can be achieved, then we can believe that Imran Khan's intentions are noble. If all this takes place, then PM Narendra Modi should not let this opportunity pass by.
''I reiterate my stand that a war or warlike situation is not the answer to any problems. To take advantage of such situations should not be the disposition of any good government and power bearers should keep this in mind."
Have reasonably decent news from India and Pakistan: Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump says the conflict between India and Pakistan will hopefully be coming to an end. "We've been in the middle of trying to help them both out and see if we can get some organisation and peace."
Speaking at a news conference in Vietnam after a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un , Mr. Trump says he had some “reasonably decent” news from India and Pakistan.
Pakistan airspace to remain closed till Thursday midnight
Pakistan’s civil aviation authority announces that its airspace for commercial flights will remain closed till Thursday midnight.
Thousands of passengers are stranded after operations were suspended across major airports in the country.
The aviation authority on Wednesday announced the closure of the Pakistani airspace. Later in the day, in a tweet which has since been deleted, it says that commercial aviation has been partially restored, starting with Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, reports the Dawn .
However, in another tweet in the early hours of Thursday, it retracts the “partial resumption” statement and says that the closure was in fact still intact, says the daily. - PTI
Whole country is behind our jawans: Modi
In an address to BJP workers, the Prime Minister says brave jawans at the border display exemplary courage, reports Nistula Hebbar .
“At this time, the feelings in the country are at a different level. Brave jawans at the border are displaying exemplary courage. The whole country is one and standing behind our jawans. The world is looking at our collective will," he says.
Also read | India will fight, live, work and win as one: PM Modi
Nothing should be done that will reduce the morale of the military. "We belong to assertive [ parakrami ] India. We can not say 'enough' and leave. All of us should be like soldiers and work for progress of India. India will fight, live, work and win as one," he asserts.
Mayawati's charge against PM
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati accuses Mr. Modi of "serving political interests" by addressing BJP workers, reports our correspondent Omar Rashid.
"At a time when India is facing hostility of war and country needs firm leadership, PM Narendra Modi, instead of concentrating on the matters of national security, trying to serve political interest by addressing his BJP workers is ridiculous, besides [a] betrayal of national sentiments," she tweets.
"Indian forces foiled Pakistani attack yesterday, it is a matter of big relief but an IAF pilot is under Pak custody is a matter of great concern. India should try to do its best at all levels to ensure safe return of the pilot only then the country will feel relief," she adds.
Australia updates travel advisory; asks India, Pak. to ‘exercise restraint’
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, who was in London on Wednesday, says she is very concerned about the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.
“I was hearing very serious reports about an escalation of the conflict between Pakistan and India. I am very concerned about those. “If those reports are correct, we would certainly urge both sides to exercise restraint and to avoid further military action... this is a dangerous cycle of escalation,” she says.
Ms. Payne states that she will encourage “direct dialogue” between both countries to resolve these matters in a peaceful way. “I will seek further information as soon as I am in a position to do so.”
Australian government's travel advisory for India says:
“Following a terrorist attack in Kashmir on 14 February, India’s military response on 26 February and reports of air force incidents over border areas of the disputed region of Kashmir, there is increased tension in the region. There are reports of suspended and/or cancelled flights for some airports in North India.
“Airport operations and flight schedules may change at short notice. Monitor local media for developments and contact your airline for the latest information. We haven’t changed our level of our advice - ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ in India overall. We have higher advice levels in some parts of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir,” the advisory said. - PTI
Canada calls for de-escalation
Canada calls for de-escalation of the situation. Its Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland issues a statement, saying Canada was "gravely concerned about rising between India and Pakistan".
The statement says:
"We urge both sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid any further military escalation. Dialogue between India and Pakistan is needed to identify a durable diplomatic solution and maintain peace and security in the region.
“Canada remains steadfast in its support of the global fight against terrorism. We are committed to working with India, Pakistan and our international partners in this effort."
Pakistan's Dawn.com reports that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region has been put on high alert.
Statement of father of IAF pilot in Pak. custody
Air Marshal Varthaman (retd.), father of Wing Commander Abhinanda Varthaman who was captured by Pakistan on Wednesday, in a statement, thanks everyone for their support.
"Thank you my friends for your concern and wishes. I thank God for his blessings. Abhi is alive, not injured, sound in mind, just look at the way he talked so bravely... a true soldier.We are so proud of him," the statement said.
"I am sure all your hands and blessings are on his head, prayers for his safe return (sic), I pray that he does not get tortured, and comes home safe and sound in body and mind. Thank you all for being with us in this hour of need. We draw our strengths from your support and energy," the statement added.
Delhi, Mumbai metro stations put on red alert
Metro stations in Delhi and Mumbai are placed on red alert.
A red alert was sounded for the entire Delhi Metro network on Wednesday evening, while the Mumbai Metro sounded the alert on all 12 stations with immediate effect on Thursday morning.
"Basis the inputs received from security agencies, Mumbai Metro One has imposed Red Alert on all 12 stations with immediate effect. We seek cooperation and support from our esteemed commuters," the Mumbai Metro One twitter handle tweeted.
Mumbai Police also step up security across the city .
“After a red alert is sounded, all station controllers are required to inspect entire station premises for any suspicious items or activity, including in parking lots, and report to the control centre every two hours,” according to a senior Delhi Metro Railway Corporation (DMRC) official said
Police sources say that Mumbai, being the financial capital and due to its diverse population, is regarded to be one of the top targets of terrorist attacks. As a result, precautions are being taken accordingly, sources say.
Pakistan shells forward posts in Poonch
The Pakistan Army resorts to heavily shelling of the forward posts along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district, drawing retaliation from the Indian Army, says an official.
This is the seventh consecutive day Pakistan is violating the ceasefire by targeting forward posts along the LoC.
The PRO, Defence, says, “At about 0600 hours on Thursday, Pakistan Army initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation by shelling with mortars and firing of small arms along the LoC in Krishna Ghati sector. The Indian Army retaliated strongly and effectively.”
In view of the prevailing situation, authorities order a temporary closure of educational institutions in a 5-km radius along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch districts.
They ask all border-dwellers to remain inside their homes and not move outside in view of shelling by Pakistan. - PTI
UN chief Guterres following escalating tensions with ‘deep concern’
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is following with “deep concern” the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan, calling on both sides to urgently take steps for a "meaningful mutual engagement", says the U.N.
He is “obviously, following the situation as we see it even today with deep concern, and his the United Nations’ message, both publicly and privately, to both sides is to urgently take steps to lower tensions through meaningful, mutual engagement and meet their responsibilities to maintain peace and security in the region,” his spokesperson St鰨ane Dujarric tells reporters on Wednesday.
When asked if Mr. Guterres spoke to the leaders of India and Pakistan following another day of escalating tension and plans to get involved to try and mediate a de-escalation, Mr. Dujarric says Mr. Guterres received a call on Tuesday from Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, adding that there have been contacts at various levels with all sides.
“Discussions are being held at different levels with different parties to make sure that we have we get a full picture of what is going on and the message coming out of those discussions is on the need for both countries to do whatever they can to de-escalate the situation,” he says.
Japan issues statement urging India, Pakistan to exercise restraint
Japan issues a statement condemning the February 14 Pulwama terror attack. Its Foreign Minister Taro Kono, in a statement, says, " Japan is concerned about the deteriorating situation in Kashmir. Japan strongly condemns the terrorist attack on 14 February 2019 for which the Islamic extremist group “Jaish-e-Mohammad” claimed responsibility. Japan urges Pakistan to take stronger measures to counter terrorism."
Mr. Kono further urges both conuntries to exercise restraint. "In response to the mounting tension due to the operations since 26 February between the Indian Air Force and the Pakistan Air Force, Japan strongly urges India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and stabilize the situation through dialogue," the statement says.
Pakistan suspends Samjhauta Exp. service
The Samjhauta Express between Pakistan and India has been suspended until further notice, DawnNewsTV reports, citing railway authorities.
The train departs on Monday and Thursday from Lahore. The biweekly train was scheduled to depart from Lahore with 16 passengers. It embarked on its journey from Karachi but the passengers are stuck at the Lahore railway station, the reports say.
Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal asks the Prime Minister to cancel the BJP's ''Mera Booth Sabse Mazboot'' event today and to focus on getting Wing Commander Abhinandan back.
U.S. calls for India and Pakistan to de-escalate situation
The U.S. has called for stability and asked both India and Pakistan to cease all cross-border military activity, says a statement from a State Department spokesperson.
“We urge both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, including through direct communication. Further military activity will exacerbate the situation,” the statement reads.
Air Canada temporarily suspends flights to India
Air Canada on Wednesday temporarily suspended its flights to India
“One flight en route to Delhi from Toronto was turned back over the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday night and returned to Toronto Wednesday, while a second flight from Vancouver to Delhi that was scheduled to depart Tuesday night was also been cancelled,” says Air Canada said.
“We are monitoring the situation in order to resume service once the situation normalises and we determine it is safe to do so,” it says.
Ban JeM chief Masood Azhar: U.S., UK, France
The United States of America, the United Kingdom and France move a fresh proposal in the UNSC to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, a listing that will subject him to global travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo.
The fresh proposal was moved on Wednesday by the three permanent veto-wielding members of the 15-nation Security Council.
Abhinandan’s father a decorated IAF officer
“We had a strong guide in Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, and he had given us several inputs on the Indian Air Force. He has been a very great source of inspiration for us,” film-maker Mani Rathnam had said about Air Marshal Varthaman (retd), father of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who is held captive in Pakistan, during the audio launch of his 2017 movie Kaatru Veliyidai .
Eerily similar to the film’s storyline, Wg. Cdr. Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by the Pakistan Army after his MiG-21 crashed across the LoC.
(With inputs from news agencies)