ISLAMABAD, February 27 -- Pakistan and India said on Wednesday they had shot down each other’s warplanes, in a dramatically escalating confrontation that has fueled concerns of an all-out conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.
Pakistan said it struck two Indian jets in its airspace, while India confirmed the loss of one of its planes and said it had shot down a Pakistani fighter jet. Four bodies were recovered from the wreckage of an Indian Air Force chopper, said officials. Pakistan initially said it captured two Indian pilots, but later its military spokesman announced there was “only one pilot” in Pakistani custody. The clash prompted Pakistan to close its airspace “until further notice”, while at least six airports were closed in India, and a vast area of airspace north of New Delhi was closed to civilian flights.
India’s foreign ministry demanded the “immediate and safe return” of the pilot, calling on Pakistan to ensure no harm comes to him. The intensifying tension between the neighbours threatens to undo recent diplomatic progress between India and China, which is a long-standing close ally and arms supplier to Pakistan.
On the sidelines of trilateral talks with Russia on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and expressed concern over the escalating conflict. Other global powers, including the United States and European Union, have also called for calm, while Malaysia issued a travel advisory for its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the affected areas.
Calling for talks with India to defuse the situation, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday warned of the potentially catastrophic consequences should “better sense” not prevail. “History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation,” Khan said during a televised broadcast to the nation. “My question is that given the weapons we have can we afford miscalculation?” He said Pakistan was “ready to cooperate”, adding: “Let’s sit together to talk to find a solution.”