India on Wednesday admitted that one Indian Air Force pilot is “missing in action” after his plane was engaged with a Pakistan Air Force fighter jet.
“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,” the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Ravish Kumar said in a brief statement.
The admission from the MEA comes several hours after Pakistan Army establishment claimed it had with them Sq Ldr Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by the Pakistan forces.
Pakistan also claimed to have a second Indian pilot in its custody, though his photograph is not released in the public. Sources declined to comment on Pakistan's claim of having a second IAF pilot in its custody.
On the other hand, photograph and video of Sq Ldr Varthaman surfaced all over the social media much before director general ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said in a press conference that two IAF pilots are in Pakistan custody.
Kumar said an IAF MiG-21 BISON shot down a Pakistani aircraft in an aerial engagement after PAF aircraft targetted Indian military establishment to counter IAF strikes on the JeM terror camp on Pakistan soil.
“India had informed about Counter-Terrorism action it took on Tuesday against a training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed 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,” Kumar said.
“Due to our high state of readiness and alertness, Pakistan’s attempts were foiled successfully,” the spokesperson said.
“The PAF (aircraft) 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,” he said
Kumar's statement is the first official Indian comment on the escalating conflict situation between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.