ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army said on Wednesday it had shot down two Indian jets that violated the country’s airspace and captured two pilots in the steepest of escalations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors since they fought a brief war in the Himalayas in 1999.
The Pakistan army said the Indian warplanes violated the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between the two countries, after the Pakistan air force struck targets in India on Wednesday. The Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs [MoFA] also said in a statement that Pakistan had struck “non-military” targets in Indian-administered Kashmir that day.
Pakistan’s airstrikes will raise the possibility of military escalation between the arch-rivals who have fought three wars since they gained independence from the British in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, which the neighbors both claim in full but rule in part.
“In response to PAF [Pakistan Air Force] strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF [Indian Air Froce] crossed LOC,” military spokesman Gen Asif Ghafoor said in a post on Twitter.
“PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K [Pakistan-administered Kashmir] while other fell inside IOK [Indian-occupied Kashmir].”
The spokesman said in his tweet that one Indian pilot was arrested by troops. At a press conference later in the day, he said two pilots had been arrested: one was being interrogated and another was being treated at a military hospital.
— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) February 27, 2019
The Pakistani airstrikes are in response to an Indian violation of its airspace on Tuesday morning, the first since the countries fought a war in 1971. Indian claims it hit a militant training camp but Pakistan says Indian jets were barely in Pakistan for a few minutes before they were chased away by the country’s air force.
The breach from the Indian side came in response to a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir on February 14 in which at least 40 Indian troopers were killed. The attack was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group and India had promised a “strong response.”
In its statement, the Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs said Wednesday’s airstrikes were not in retaliation for Tuesday’s violation of its airspace by India, but simply to send the message that Pakistan had the capability and the will to hit back.
“Pakistan has ... taken strikes at non military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage. Sole purpose being to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self defense,” the foreign office statement said. “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.”