Pakistan’s military says it shot down two Indian fighter jets over Kashmir Wednesday, capturing one pilot and escalating the most serious military dispute between the two nations since 1999.
The Pakistani military says the aircraft had entered its airspace, while India accused Pakistan of intruding on its territory in the disputed area of Kashmir. After initially claiming to have two pilots, Pakistan’s military said “one pilot landed inside Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the other on the Indian side of the disputed border,” the AP reports.
Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted a photo of the pilot in custody and wrote that he’s “being treated as per norms of military ethics.”
India has called for the “immediate and safe return” of the pilot and objected “to Pakistan’s vulgar display of an injured personnel” in what it says is a violation of the Geneva Convention.
The incident comes just a day after India conducted airstrikes within Pakistan for the first time in decades. The bombs were dropped on what Pakistan says was a empty wooded area, but India claims was a training ground for the militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad. The group has claimed responsibility for a February 14 bombing in Kashmir that killed around 40 Indian soldiers and reignited simmering tensions between these two longtime rivals.
Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan said India knew it wasn’t attacking a terrorist camp and blamed the bombing on “self-serving” politicians. “This action has been done for domestic consumption in the election environment, putting regional peace and stability at grave risk,” he said. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is up for reelection in the coming weeks.
The two countries have also exchanged volleys of heavy artillery fire. Late Tuesday, Pakistan reportedly shelled Indian territory in Kashmir, and India retaliated early Wednesday. Mortar shells fired into Pakistani territory killed six people, children among them, according to local officials.
After the Indian planes were downed Wednesday, Kahn said in a televised speech that the two nations should settle their dispute with diplomacy. “I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation?” he said, alluding to their nuclear arsenals. “Let’s sit and settle this with talks.”