Islamabad - In a major morale booster for the country, Pakistan’s forces yesterday shot down two Indian war planes and detained a senior pilot of the Indian Air Force near LoC – just a day after PAF repulsed a major airspace violation by New Delhi.

The enemy planes were hunted down in the morning when they crossed into Azad Kashmir area while chasing Pakistan Air Force jets flying near the Line of Control (LoC) as part of a mission to demonstrate their strike capability to a boastful and arrogant enemy.

Reiterating Pakistan’s wish for peace, Director General Inter Services Public relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor shared details of the dramatic developments with the nation in a media briefing in Rawalpindi.

He said the whole episode started with the promised Pakistani response to the India’s Tuesday aggression, wherein the IAF [Indian Air Force] fighter planes violated the LoC and dropped payloads in Balakot area in a hurry upon being pursued by PAF aircraft.

As part of their mind-it-India mission, PAF engaged six targets from across the LoC in Occupied Kashmir on Wednesday morning. All the six targets were in fact open spaces near Indian military and administrative installation.

He explained that the purpose of the strikes was just to make it clear to the enemy that Pakistan forces have “capacity, capability, will and resolve to respond” and hit them at places they cannot even imagine.

 The payloads were dropped at the open spaces to ensure that no causality happens in the process, the DG ISPR said.

“We kept in mind that no collateral damage is caused. Therefore, keeping within our own air space, we selected Bhimber Gali, PG Top and Naryan area targets, our pilots locked those target. When they had an option to fire, they manifested responsibility and keeping safety engaged the targets in an open area.”

The spokesman said that it was “not retaliation” but “we needed to manifest that Pakistan has the capability and could do it.”

Major General Asif Ghafoor went on to say that after taking the targets, two Indian aircraft violated LoC and entered into Pakistani territory and PAF engaged and shot them down, with debris of one falling inside Pakistan’s territory and the other in the Occupied Kashmir.

Consequently, one Indian pilot was taken into custody and is being treated properly, the officer said.

Earlier in the day, India also claimed of shooting down an F-16 fighter plane of Pakistan. But Pakistan chief military spokesperson categorically rejected the Indian claim arguing that not even a single F-16 was engaged in the action.

The DG ISPR said Pakistan armed forces and PAF had no option but to respond in self defence to the aggression India had committed a day earlier.

“We wanted to show to Indians that we are capable of doing all things, but not at the cost of regional peace... We are a peaceful country and do not want to go to war and have been exercising restraint to avoid escalating the situation.”

Maj Gen Ghafoor said Pakistan had always conveyed peace to India and the way to it passes through dialogue.

He however made it clear, “If aggression was imposed on us we will definitely give a response under compulsion.”

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan has already made it clear that it is easy to start war but difficult to conclude it and “We do not want to escalate and are pursuing path of peace”.

DG ISPR said it is also the responsibility of the international community to come forward and play its role as the war will cause irreparable damage to both the countries as well as the region. He emphasised that people of both countries as well as the region need to live in peace.

He said the Pakistani media opted for peace journalism. “Our action was in self defence and we do not want to indicate any kind of victory. Nobody wins or loses a war. It is the humanity that ultimately loses. Therefore, I request media to continue objective reporting that leads to peace. When a war is imposed on us, the reporting of that time will be different.”

Asked about the use of any nuclear arsenal, he stated, “I have always said, we must not talk about this. This is insane to talk about this. It is a capability and a weapon of political choice. Neither is it our level nor a subject to be talked about.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Office also issued a statement condoning ISPR’s version of events and making it clear that Islamabad did not seek to escalate tension with India but reserved the right to respond to any aggression.

 

 

India’s position

After denying the news of their losses for hours, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) finally admitted later in the day that one of their MiG-21s was shot down by Pakistan and its pilot was missing.

Addressing a press conference, a spokesperson for the Indian MEA said, “We unfortunately lost one MiG-21 in this engagement and an Indian pilot is missing in action. Pakistan claims the pilot is in their custody, however we are ascertaining the facts.”

India media reports meanwhile said, IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhi Nandan took off in a MiG 21 Bison jet and is yet to return. Abhi Nandan is the son of a retired Indian Air Marshal, the reports added.

A video of the captured Indian pilot released on social media showed him saying: “My name is Wing Commander Abhi Nandan. My service number is 27981. I am a flying pilot. My religion is Hindu.”

Asked to share more, the arrested pilot said: “I’m sorry Sir, that’s all I’m supposed to tell you.”

Initial reports suggested that another Indian pilot was arrested in an injured state and taken to CMH for treatment. But later it emerged that only Abhinandan was arrested from the crash site.

 

 

Softening of Indian position

After its armed forces had to lick the dust on Wednesday, India sought to ease soaring tensions with Pakistan with its Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj saying the country does not wish to see further escalation of the situation.

Swaraj, who is in China with her counterparts from Beijing and Moscow, termed Tuesday’s strikes by Indian aircraft within the Pakistani airspace as ‘pre-emptive’ and said India will continue to act with “responsibility and restraint.”

“India does not wish to see further escalation of this situation. India will continue to act with responsibility and restraint,” she said.

This new posture appeared in stark contrast to the series of threats by Indian political and military leadership to Pakistan following the Pulwama suicide attack, which was carried out by a Kashmiri youth in reaction to the oppression unleashed by the occupational forces.

 

 

 

FO statement

Pakistan’s Foreign Office also issued a statement on the Wednesday episode saying PAF undertook the strikes across the LOC from within Pakistani airspace.

“This was not retaliation to continued Indian belligerence... Pakistan has taken strikes at non-military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage,” it said, adding that strikes were made to demonstrate country’s “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,” it warned. Pakistan undertook the action with clear warning and in broad daylight, the statement said.

The Foreign Office said for the past 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 the 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.”

It said, “We wish that India gives peace a chance and to resolve issues like a mature democratic nation.”

 Background of skirmishes

India has been seething since February 14 when a young Kashmiri, believed to be associated with the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), drove a car full of explosives in a military convoy in the Pulwama area of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), killing nearly four dozen troops in an attack described as the deadliest in the region’s history.

New Delhi blamed Pakistan of orchestrating and backing the attack. Islamabad strongly rejected the allegations and offered all help in investigation of the incident.

On Tuesday India went on carrying out a sort of revenge attack. It claimed that its warplanes launched pre-dawn air strikes, flattening “the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM)” in Balakot area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and killing 350 “terrorists”.

Indian media started thumping chest soon after Delhi claimed the IAF strikes.

But Pakistan called the claim ‘reckless and fictitious’, saying that no such camp existed in that area and the Indian planes had in fact dropped payload in a non-populated space in the woods.

Pakistan’s civil and military leadership also declared the violation of airspace by Indian fighter jets “uncalled for aggression” and decided that the country would respond at the “time and place of its choosing”.

The airspace violation by Indian jets capped 12 days of bitter exchanges between the two nuclear-armed hostile neighbours, triggering international alarm, with China and the European Union calling for both sides to show restraint.