India and Pakistan on Wednesday claimed they had shot down each others’ fighter jets, a day after the Indian Air Force had struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. India said Pakistan had attempted to target military installations in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday and confirmed a pilot of its Air Force was missing in action after the operation.
Pakistan claimed that its jets had struck across the Line of Control from “Pakistani airspace”, and that it had shot down two Indian jets. The action was not targeted at military installations or civilians, Islamabad claimed.
On Wednesday, the Pakistani government had tweeted a video clip that purportedly showed the pilot, but later deleted the tweet. Scroll.in 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.
India on Wednesday evening demanded that the pilot be immediately released, and condemned Pakistan’s “vulgar display” of the injured Indian personnel.
The Hindustan Times ran with the headline “Jets downed, Tension up”, indicating the rising tensions between India and Pakistan. The newspaper listed out a timeline of events that took place on Wednesday – from a dogfight between the Indian Air Force and Pakistani Air Force to Abhinandan’s capture to India’s demand that the IAF personnel be safely returned.
The newspaper’s front page also carried Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement urging a dialogue with India. “Shouldn’t we think that if matters escalate, where will things go? Things will not be in my control or in Narendra Modi’s control,” the newspaper quoted Khan as saying.
The newspaper also noted that Abhinandan Varthaman, captured by Pakistan, is the son of a retired air marshal.
The Mumbai Mirror in its front page with the headline “Maun ki baat” noted that the Narendra Modi government’s communication strategy has been to maintain radio silence over the matter. Juxtaposing pictures of Prime Minister Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs VK Singh, the tabloid said the Cabinet had not held any media briefing.
The Times of India ran with a headline “Tension in the air”, adding that Pakistan Armed Forces had backtracked from their earlier claim of capturing two Indian pilots. The newspaper also reported that the Indian government was “unmoved” by Imran Khan’s speech urging for peace, and said the standoff between the two countries could escalate. The Times of India said the Indian pilot was calm and collected after being captured in Pakistan, and that the United States had extended support to India’s “counter-terror strike”.
The Telegraph carried a headline “Pray for saner counsel”, echoing the statement of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who on Wednesday said a “saner counsel should prevail between the leadership of the two countries”. “Our country is grappling with another crisis of the mad rush of mutual self-destruction that plagues the two countries of India and Pakistan,” Singh had said. The newspaper also carried excerpts from Imran Khan’s televised address.
The Indian Express ran with the headline “Day after, sleepless night”, noting that Pakistan warjets entered the Indian airspace on Wednesday morning, a day after the IAF conducted strikes across the Line of Control in Pakistan. The newspaper also reported that the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council had called upon both countries to de-escalate tensions and to exercise restraint.
Among Hindi newspapers, the Dainik Jagran reported that a big move against Pakistan is expected. In a report on the first page, the newspaper said “powerless Imran makes an offer of dialogue”. It also reported the Indian government as saying that they are ready for a “decisive action” and carried a column with the headline “Agar yudh chida to kangal ho jayega Pakistan [If war breaks out, Pakistan will become bankrupt]”.
Dainik Bhaskar, on the other hand, ran with the headline “Rashtra ko Abhinandan chahiye [The nation wants Abhinandan]”, wordplaying with the IAF pilot’s name which means “compliments”. In another article, the newspaper wrote, “Attanki adde ki tabahi se bhokhalaye Pakistan ne humare senye thikano pe hamla kiya Pakistan attacks [Our military camps in panic after terror camps destroyed]”.
Amar Ujala in its headline noted that the Indian Army has been given complete freedom to respond to the incursions.
“Proud of my son” Dinamani quoted IAF pilot Abhinandan’s father as saying in one of its stories on the front page. Dinakaran, on the other hand, reported that Pakistan’s aircraft had been “chased away” by the Indian armed forces.
Most of the Malayalam newspapers captured the tenseness prevailing in India and Pakistan as ties have deteriorated. Malayala Manorama, the largest circulated Malayalam daily, carried the headline “Pakistan aircraft shot down”, with a second headline reading: “Indian pilot captured by Pakistan Army during a valiant operation”.
“Aakasham Ashantham” (Sky is turbulent) read the headline of Madhayamam. It reported that India-Pakistan tensions have escalated into a war-like situation for the first time since the 1999 Kargil war.
Gujarati newspaper Sandesh’s headline said the Indian Air Force had shot down a Pakistan F-16 jet, while a second headline claimed that “shaken Pakistan’s” efforts to attack India were unsuccessful.
Divya Bhaskar punned on “der” (fear) in its headline “Pak’s surrender”. A long sub-head claimed that India shot down Pakistan’s F-16 on Wednesday morning, and by evening, Pakistan PM Imran Khan “panicked” and appealed for peace. The paper also claimed that six Pakistani plains had entered the Indian airspace.