The Centre on Wednesday criticised the Opposition parties who had said they were anguished over its “blatant politicisation” of the sacrifices made by Armed Forces.

Leaders of 21 political parties who attended a meeting at Parliament on Wednesday issued a joint statement condemning the Pulwama suicide attack and lauding the Indian air strikes against a terror camp across the border on Tuesday.

Union Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar at a press conference rebuked the Opposition and said their criticism was baseless. “Who is happy [with the joint statement]? Pakistan, its army and its media,” Javadekar said and screened a clip of a Pakistani news channel show to make his point.

Javadekar said Islamabad would use the Opposition’s criticism of the Centre to show that India was not united in its stand against terror.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also tweeted his disapproval. “The cross border terror attack in Pulwama was a reality,” Jaitley tweeted. “The Balakot Operation was India’s anti-terror preemptive strike to defend its sovereignty. The whole nation has spoken in one voice. Why then, is India’s Opposition alleging that the government is politicising our anti-terror operations.”

Jaitley asked the Opposition to introspect. “Let the country speak in one voice,” Jaitley tweeted. “Your ill-advised statement is being used by Pakistan to bolster its case.”

The Congress, however, rejected Jaitley’s charge and said it was the BJP and its leadership who needed a real introspection. “Entire opposition stood as one backing the armed forces and the govenrment,” Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted. “Still, Amit Shah and the entire BJP resorted to credit seeking for the sacrifice of our martyrs & indulged in blaming the Congress provocatively.”

The Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday afternoon said India had lost a MiG 21 jet and a pilot was “missing in action” after Islamabad “targeted military installations on India’s side”. Pakistan claimed the pilot was in their custody, but India said it was “ascertaining the facts”.

The Pakistani government had tweeted a video clip that purportedly showed the pilot, but later deleted the tweet. has not independently verified the authenticity of the video. In the video, copies of which are still available on social media, the person, with a bloody face, identifies himself as Wing Commander Abhinandan.

The Congress urged the government to ensure that the pilot, who Pakistan claims is in its custody, is brought home safely. “We’re saddened by the news that one of our Indian Air Force pilots is missing in action, we urge the govt [government] to bring him back safely,” the party said.

Opposition stands by armed forces

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted in support of the missing pilot and the armed forces. “I’m sorry to hear that one of our brave IAF pilots is missing,” he tweeted. “I hope he will return home soon, unharmed. We stand by our armed forces in these difficult times.”

The party advised restraint while “reacting and sharing” news. “With the growing hysteria it is easy to succumb to hate propaganda [and] fake news,” the party said.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav tweeted in support of the missing pilot. “I am praying for the safe return of our brave pilot,” he said. “May God protect you and give you courage and strength. The nation stands with you.”

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi said Pakistan must respect its obligations to the Indian pilot under Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, under which every party is required to treat prisoners humanely. “Our prayers are with the brave IAF pilot & his