Tension between India and Pakistan intensified on Wednesday with an “aerial engagement” between the two air forces resulting in the loss of at least one military aircraft from each side and Pakistan capturing an Indian Air Force pilot who landed in enemy territory after his MiG-21 jet was shot down by Pakistan.
Following extensive consultation at the top-level of the government throughout the day, India demanded “immediate and safe” return of Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman and asked Islamabad to stop the “vulgar display of an injured IAF person in violation of all norms on International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention”.
The day was particularly bad for the IAF, which lost a Mi-17 V5 helicopter in a crash in Budgam near Srinagar. All six IAF personnel were dead and a court of inquiry had been ordered into the accident, said an IAF spokesperson.
The rising mercury level between the two nuclear-armed neighbours comes two weeks after 49 CRPF soldiers were killed at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir in a suicide attack, choreographed by terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed.
With hostility growing, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad offered a peace proposal hours after the PAF claimed to have made an air raid at six Indian targets to counter IAF’s Tuesday offensive to demolish a Jaish terror camp inside Pakistan territory.
“I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation? If this escalates, it will no longer be in my control or Modi’s,” Khan said in an obvious reference to nuclear weapons that the two countries possess.
In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Ravish Kumar provided a brief account of the action that took place on the western front.
“This morning, Pakistan used 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 PAF was detected and the IAF responded instantly. In that aerial engagement, one PAF fighter aircraft was shot down by a MiG 21 Bison of the IAF. 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.”
Kumar did not name the PAF aircraft that was shot. But social media is abuzz with reports of India’s MiG-21 bringing down a Pakistan F-16. Across the border, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, director general Inter Service Public Relations denied the use of F-16. Pakistan’s Acting High Commissioner was summoned by MEA which lodged a protest at the “unprovoked act of aggression by Pakistan” including violation of Indian air space by PAF.