Pakistan armed forces spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor on Wednesday clarified that its Air Force had detained only one Indian Air Force pilot and identified him as Wing Commander Abhinandan. Ghafoor said the Indian pilot was being treated in accordance with military ethics.
Ghafoor’s clarification followed contesting claims from Islamabad and New Delhi about Pakistani fighter jets violating Indian airspace. Pakistan had claimed that its Air Force shot down two Indian Air Force jets after they crossed the Line of Control and detained two Indian Air Force pilots. India had said it was ascertaining the claims and that it had shot down a Pakistani fighter plane while thwarting an intrusion.
Ghafoor’s tweet also had a photo of the pilot identified as Abhinandan purportedly holding a cup.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar later said the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistani Air Force fighter aircraft, after Islamabad “targeted military installations on India’s side”. Kumar claimed that one Indian Air Force pilot has been reported missing and one MiG 21 was lost while thwarting the Pakistani intrusion.
Ghafoor had tweeted earlier on Wednesday that the armed forces had shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace. He later told the press that two Indian pilots were arrested as well, Geo TV reported. While one of the pilots was injured and taken for medical treatment, the other is in Pakistani custody, he had added.
In a video issued by the Pakistan Army that has since been deleted, one of the pilots allegedly captured was identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan. In the video, copies of which are still available on social media, the person had blood on his face and was blindfolded. “I am a flying pilot and my religion is Hindu,” he says in the video. “That is all I’m supposed to tell you,” he adds.
Scroll.in has not independently verified the authenticity of the video.
Unidentified Indian Air Force officials had initially claimed that all Indian pilots were accounted for. But sources later told ANI that Wing Commander Abhinandan, who had taken off in a MiG 21 Bison jet, is yet to return.
Separately, reports emerged of an Indian Air Force aircraft crashing in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam district, although initial reports suggested this was due to technical reasons. Police at the site have confirmed finding two bodies amid the debris, though more details are awaited.
Officials said the Army and Border Security Force have been put on the highest degree of alertness along the border. “Army and BSF troops have been put on highest alert along the Line of Control and the International Border in view of the high degree of tension in wake of airspace violations,” they added.
Authorities have also ordered the temporary closure of educational institutions in a five kilometre-radius along the Line of Control in Rajouri and Poonch districts. All residents of the border areas have been asked to stay inside their homes.
The violation came a day after Indian Air Force jets targeted terror camps across the border and reportedly inflicted heavy casualties. Earlier on Wednesday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told her Chinese and Russian counterparts that India does not want escalation and that the air strikes were preemptive action against terror targets.
‘Struck from within Pakistani airspace’: Islamabad
Pakistan claimed the strikes took place across the Line of Control from within its airspace. “This was not a retaliation to continued Indian belligerence,” said a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, referring to the IAF’s cross-border air strikes on Tuesday. “Pakistan has, therefore, taken strikes at non-military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage.”
Pakistan said it did not wish to escalate the tension, but the sole purpose of the strikes was to demonstrate its right, will and capability for self defence.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said the country was ready for a dialogue on terror and cautioned against war, saying they are miscalculated. Khan said Pakistan shooting down India’s fighter jets were only intended to convey “that if you can come into our country, we can do the same”. He said: “Two of their MiGs were shot down. From here, it is imperative that we use our heads and act with wisdom.”