MOSCOW, February 27. /TASS/. India and Pakistan issued statements about the air skirmish over the Line of Control separating the two parts of Kashmir. New Delhi claims to have downed a Pakistani Air Force F-16 jet, while Islamabad says it has shot down two Indian fighter aircraft and arrested a pilot.
India’s Asian News International (ANI) agency reported, citing unnamed military sources, that the F-16 had violated India’s airspace and carried out air strikes. The jet’s wreckage fell on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, while the pilot ejected. Pakistan Army Spokesman Major General Asif Ghafo rejected claims that the aircraft had been downed.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Indian military targets in Jammu and Kashmir had been attacked from Pakistani airspace. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement "the sole purpose being to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defense, we have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm."
Meanwhile, India’s NDTV channel said, citing a source that all Indian aircraft that had scrambled to intercept Pakistani jets returned to their bases.
India closed the airspace over Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan shut down five airports, including those in the country’s capital, Islamabad, and in the second largest city Lahore.
Suicide bombing stirs up tensions
Tensions along the Line of Contact flared up on February 14, when a suicide attacker rammed his car filled with explosives into an Indian paramilitary convoy in Jammu and Kashmir killing 45. The Jaish-e-Mohammed group claimed responsibility for the attack.
New Delhi accused Islamabad of supporting terrorists who allegedly carry out raids on Indian territory from Pakistan-based camps. In addition, India claimed to have evidence proving that Pakistani military and its intelligence agencies could be behind the attack. In response, Islamabad rejected these accusations.
On Tuesday, India’s Foreign Ministry said the country’s Air Force had destroyed the largest militant camp belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed group near the Pakistani town of Balakot. According to India, the operation involved 12 jets, including the Mirage-2000 and the Sukhoi Su-30MKI.
China was one of the first countries to respond to the surge in tensions between India and Pakistan, urging both countries to show restraint. "The international community has been keeping a close eye on the situation. China’s position remains clear and unequivocal. We hope that as two vital countries of South Asia, India and Pakistan will be able to exercise restraint," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said, expressing hope that New Delhi and Islamabad "will maintain dialogue and take actions to achieve peace and stability in the region."
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called on the parties to exercise maximum restraint.