Imran Khan calls for talks after India and Pakistan shoot down jets

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Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, outside Srinagar on Wednesday (AFP)
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Indian army soldiers arrive near the wreckage of an Indian aircraft after it crashed in Budgam area, outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Feb.27, 2019. (AP/Mukhtar Khan)
Updated 28 February 2019
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Imran Khan calls for talks after India and Pakistan shoot down jets

  • Imran Khan calls on India to hold talks to avert devastating war
  • Indian aircraft crash killed two pilots and a civilian

ISLAMABAD,NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan engaged in aerial hostilities along the Kashmiri Line of Control (LoC) for the first time since 1971 on Wednesday, with New Delhi claiming to have lost a pilot in action, and Islamabad losing an F-16 fighter jet, according to Indian sources.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan called for a de-escalation of the tensions and invited Indian officials to choose dialogue over force in a televised address to his nation.
The address came after Pakistani jets shot down two Indian warplanes across the LoC, the de facto border dividing Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir. One Indian pilot was reportedly captured.
Khan said the two sides could not afford a miscalculation with the weapons they had, and he was willing to sit down with his Indian neighbors and discuss ways to resolve their outstanding issues, including terrorism.
“Let’s sit together and resolve our problems through dialogue,” Khan told the Indian leadership in a televised address after chairing a high-level meeting of the National Command Authority, which oversees Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.In a statement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that Pakistan had responded to its legitimate “counter-terrorism action” against the group Jaish-e-Mohammed, suspected of carrying out an attack on an Indian military convoy last week, by “targeting military installations on the Indian side.”
The statement added that the IAF had lost one MiG-21 fighter jet, and that its pilot was missing. Efforts, it added, were underway to confirm Pakistani claims that he had been taken into custody across the border.
The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted Islamabad had attacked Indian military positions, but claimed to have only done so in self-defense. 
“The sole purpose of this action was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defense. We do not wish to escalate but are fully prepared if forced,” a spokesman said.
Earlier this month the Pakistan-based militant group JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the Pulwama district of Indian-administered Kashmir in which more than 40 paramilitary troops were killed.



 

Khan said he had “offered peace to India after what happened in Pulwama. I understood the pain of the families (who lost family members in the incident). We offered India our complete cooperation in the investigations, as this is not in Pakistan’s interest to let its soil to be used against any other country.”
He added: “But I feared that India would do a misadventure due to upcoming elections.”
Referring to the shooting down of the Indian MiG-21 aircraft, Khan said: “No sovereign country can allow violation of its sovereignty. I had told India of retaliation.“The sole purpose of our action was to convey that if you can come into our country, we can do the same.” He said Pakistan had planned to ensure that any retaliatory action caused no collateral damage or casualties.
Khan said it was of the “utmost importance” to “exercise wisdom and acumen” to avoid further conflict. “All wars are miscalculated, and no one knows where they can lead,” he added.
Addressing his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, the prime minister said: “With the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford such a miscalculation?”
Extending the offer of talks to India, Khan added: “Better sense should prevail.”
Security and defense experts have hailed Khan’s stance. Tahir Malik, an academic and analyst, told Arab News: “It is now up to India whether it engages with Pakistan for dialogue to resolve the issues peacefully, or keeps trumpeting the warmongering mantra.” 
Malik also called for an international effort to help resolve the dispute over Kashmir.
“The real challenge for both Pakistan and India now is to de-escalate and engage in a meaningful dialogue. We hope the Indian leadership will reciprocate Prime Minister Khan’s message of peace.”
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi held meetings with senior military chiefs and the heads of his nation’s intelligence services throughout Wednesday. 
New Delhi shut nine airports in the north of the country in the immediate aftermath of the Pakistani airstrike, but all have since reopened.
Indian opposition leaders, meanwhile, have condemned Modi for “the politicization of the Pulwama attack,” asking him to address the nation to explain himself.
Kashmir-based political analyst Dr. Siddiq Wahid said: “The ‘no dialogue’ approach of the Modi regime has not worked, and in fact made matters worse. It is time to talk.”

 


France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

Updated 25 March 2019
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France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

  • The ban will become effective starting April 1
  • The airlines were also banned by Germany since January

PARIS: France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, diplomats said on Monday, after heavy US pressure on Paris to act.
The decision to revoke Mahan’s license to operate in France was made after Germany banned the airline in January.
Paris had considered revoking its license more than two years ago under the presidency of Francois Hollande, but had backed down because it feared it could harm relations just after a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was signed in 2015.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Washington has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
“We knew of their activities from our own intelligence services and after the German move it was a question of credibility,” said a French diplomatic source.
The French ban on the airline, which had four flights a week to Paris from Tehran, takes effect from April 1. The airline’s website is no longer taking reservations and calls to its offices in Paris were not answered.
Tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as President Emmanuel Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s ballistic missile tests, regional activities and a foiled attack on an Iranian exile group in France, which Paris says Iranian intelligence was behind.
Both countries only reappointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals last month after more than six months without envoys.
There are no plans at this stage to ban another airline — Iran Air — said one diplomat.
Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece.
European countries have been under sustained US pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of an international nuclear non-proliferation treaty reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Along with Iran, the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — are still trying to keep it alive and set up in January a mechanism to allow trade with Tehran and circumvent US sanctions.