Indian Air Force today (Wednesday, Feb 27) repulsed Pakistani attempt at a retaliatory strike and shot down its F16 when three of its jets reportedly intruded into Indian air space in the Nowshera sector at around 10.30 am.
The pilot of the F-16 that was shot down ejected in Pakistani territory. The Pakistani aircraft were intercepted by Indian Air Force jets on combat patrol as a precaution against just such a venture by Pakistan to hit back after India’s strike at Jaish-e-Mohammad camp at Balakot in Pakistan yesterday.
India has also denied Pakistani claims of shooting down Indian jets and capturing one of the pilots, saying “all our pilots are accounted for”.
“In response to PAF strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF crossed LOC,” Pakistan’s Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations, Major-General Asif Ghafoor, tweeted.
“PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K while other fell inside IOK. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area.”
‘AJ&K’ means ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, Pakistani name for Pak-Occupied Kashmir, while IOK – India Ocuupied Kashmir – is how it refers to Jammu and Kashmir.
MoFA, the Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs, issued a statement earlier on Wednesday saying Pakistan Air Force jets had hit targets across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir while flying within Pakistani airspace.
“Today, Pakistan Air Force undertook strikes across Line of Control from within Pakistani airspace,” the statement said.
In a press release titled “Pakistani Strikes Back”, Pakistan said, “This was not a retaliation to continued Indian belligerence. Pakistan has therefore, taken strikes at non military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage. Sole purpose being to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self defence. 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.”
The Pakistani statement said: “For the last few years, India has been trying to establish what they call ‘a new normal’ a thinly veiled term for doing acts of aggression at whatever pretext they wish on a given day. If India is striking at so called terrorist backers without a shred of evidence, we also retain reciprocal rights to retaliate against elements that enjoy Indian patronage while carrying out acts of terror in Pakistan. We do not wish to go to that route and wish that India gives peace a chance and to resolve issues like a mature democratic nation.”
India has called its air strike “non-military and pre-emptive”, aimed at preventing more attacks like Pulwama, based on credible inputs that Jaish was training more suicide bombers.
Tension has been high between the two countries since JeM terrorists attacked a paramilitary convoy in Kashmir’s Pulwama on 14 February, killing 40 personnel. Responding this attack, the bloodiest in Jammu and Kashmir in the last three decades of militancy, India carried out air strikes deep inside Pakistan, deploying the IAF for the first time since the 1971 war to strike a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot.
Airspace shut down in Kashmir
All airspace at Jammu, Srinagar and Leh, close to the border with Pakistan, has been shut down indefinitely, sources say. Airspace over Amritsar and Chandigarh may also be closed down, according to reports. Commercial flights to those cities have been put on hold or diverted.
The area has been on high alert amid warnings of retaliation after India’s strike yesterday. Pakistani troops have been targeting civilian hamlets and forward posts along the LoC since Tuesday evening. Defence Ministry Spokesperson Lt Colonel Devender Anand said retaliatory action has resulted in “severe destruction of five Pakistani posts and a number of casualties to Pak Army.”
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was reported to be meeting with the Defence and Foreign Secretaries besides intelligence officials, to discuss the situation.
Amid the biggest escalation between the two countries in decades, several countries have urged restraint.
This morning, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said during a trilateral meeting in China that India wants to avoid any “further escalation of the situation”.
“The limited objective of that pre-emptive strike was to act decisively against the terrorist infrastructure of Jaish-e-Mohammad in order to pre-empt another terror attack in India,” Sushma Swaraj said in Wuzhen.
“India does not wish to see further escalation of this situation. India will continue to act with responsibility and restraint.”