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India-Pakistan tensions LIVE updates: Northern Command chief visits LoC; Islamabad vows to release captured IAF pilot

India-Pakistan tensions LATEST updates: The Indian Air Force said that Pakistan had spread misinformation and had actually targeted military installations in India.

Narendra Modi will conduct a security review meeting with all three service chiefs, and intel chiefs, CNN-News18 reported. NSA Ajit Doval will be briefing the prime minister about the day’s developments.

According to reports, Wing Commander Abhinandan will be coming out through Wagah Border on Friday. He will be accompanied by outgoing defence attache of Pakistan. The news comes after Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan said that Islamabad will release Abhinandan on Friday.

On being asked if he is open to meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on sidelines of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation(OIC) meet. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he will not hesitate to meet but OIC is not the forum for talks with Swaraj. Reports quoted Indian government sources who said that India did not consider giving actionable intelligence earlier as Pakistan had not acted on actionable inputs on Mumbai and Pathankot cases in the past.”Terrorists were caught, audio was given, access was given to forward posts in Pathankot and Pakistan still remained in denial, the source told ANI. “Thirteen days after Pulwama and they still deny Jaish-e-Mohammed role. We are ready for talks on Kartarpur. They (Pakistan) had called it off just as they had closed airspace and stopped Samjhauta Express. We are trying to appear reasonable, they are creating a war hysteria.”

TV reports are quoting sources from the Indian government and said that there is no question of any deal or negotiation over Wing Commander Abhinandan’s return. The IAF pilot was captured on 27 February after his jet crashed in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. India has refused to cut any deal in order to secure the release of Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan. New Delhi has clarified that it has not asked for consular access, nor any other concessions as its sole demand is immediate release of the pilot.

Pakistan has said it will decide on whether to give IAF pilot the prisoner of war status or not. They said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was safe and healthy in Pakistani custodyReports said that Germany has urged Islamabad to safely return the captured IAF pilot to India to avoid escalation of hostilities. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian ambassador to India met Prime Minister Modi and offered him support.

According to latest TV reports, Indian Army chief and chief of Indian Air Force, Navy will address the media ta 5 pm to brief them on the situation at the border, a day after an IAF pilot was captured by Pakistan. Meanwhile, the three service chiefs have briefed defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the situation.

Pakistan government sources have told CNBC TV18 that the timing of Wing Commander Abhinandan’s return depends on border hostilities and when they end. “Pakistan will definitely return Wing Commander Abhinandan but India must engage on reducing tensions and hostilities,” News18 quoted Pakistan sources as saying.

Amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India won’t stop at any cost and will continue to fight against terrorism. Meanwhile, addressing the media after meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, US President Donald Trump said, “I think reasonably attractive news from Pakistan and India, they have been going at it and we have been involved and have them stop, we have some reasonably decent news,hopefully its going to be coming to an end, going on for a long time,decades and decades.”

Narendra Modi urges BJP booth workers across India to take the message to all homes in their respective areas that a strong government makes a huge difference to every countryman.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing BJP karyakartas across the nation said that all Indians should come together and fight as a nation. “Is samay desh ki bhavnayein ek alag star par hain. Desh ka vir jawan seema par aur seema ke paar bhi apna parakram dikha raha hai. Pura desh ek hai, aur hamare jawano ke saath khada hai. Duniya hamare collective will ko dekh rahi hai.”

According to TV reports, NSA Ajit Doval is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday evening. Doval will give the prime minister a comprehensive stock of the situation.

Passengers of Samjhauta Express going to Pakistan were stuck in Attari after Pakistan refused to allow the train in their territory. Passengers are now being sent to the Wagah border on bus from where they will cross over to Pakistan on foot, News18 quoted government sources as saying.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to NSA Ajit Doval on Wednesday evening. According to reports, the conversation between Pompeo and Doval lasted for 25 minutes. According to government sources, US has extended full support to India. US has asked Pakistan to abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds.

The three service chiefs — Army, Navy and Air Force — will meet Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today shortly, reports have said. The chiefs on Wednesday had apprised Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the security situation after Pakistani aircraft violated Indian airspace and an Indian pilot was taken into custody by the neighbouring country. Home Minister Rajnath Singh is scheduled to meet intelligence bureau chief and RAW chief today as well.

Portion of downed Pakistani Air Force jet and its wreckage was found in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. ANI tweeted an image with the Commanding Officer of Pakistan’s 7 Northern Light Infantry. Same picture, which is circulating on social media, claims that this is the Indian MiG fighter, however multiple IAF sources confirm this is the wreckage of Pakistani F16 downed on Wednesday.

News18 quoted government sources and reported that the Samjhauta Express is currently stuck at the customs office at Attari border. According to News18, the train was not allowed to enter Pakistan because Islamabad suspended services even as India said that there won’t be any change in the schedule of the train. Government sources have reportedly said that discussion is on over what the next step should be and meanwhile, News18 reported that passengers maybe put on a bus to the Wagah Border. More details are awaited.

A report in Dawn details what happened after Wing Commander Abhinandan landed on Pakistan’s soil. The report quotes a social and political activist who witnessed the minutes after the Indian Air Force pilot landed in Pakistan. “The pilot, who was equipped with a pistol, asked the youngsters whether it was India or Pakistan. On this, one of them intelligently responded that it was India. The pilot, later identified as Wing Commander Abhi Nandan, shouted some slogans and asked which place exactly it was in India.” According to the report, the captured pilot used a pistol to ward off local village boys, was unsure of which side of the border he had landed, and tried to swallow and destroy maps and documents before he was taken into custody.

Veteran Air Marshal and father of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has thanked people for their concern and wishes, News18 reports. “I thank God for his blessings. Abhi is alive, not injured, sound in mind. Just look at the way he talked so bravely. A true soldier. We are so proud of him. I am sure all your hands and blessings are on his head; prayers for his safe return. I pray that he does not get tortured, and comes home safe and sound in body and mind. Thank you all for being with us in this hour of need. We draw our strengths from your support and energy,” veteran Air Marshal Varthaman was quoted as saying by News18. Pakistan captured Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman after a fierce engagement between the two air forces.

Commanding Officer of Pakistan’s 7 Northern Light Infantry at the site where F-16 wreckage was found.

Commanding Officer of Pakistan’s 7 Northern Light Infantry at the site where F-16 wreckage was found.

General Vijay Kumar Singh, former chief of Army staff and now Minister of State for External Affairs has tweeted on captured Wing Commander Abhinandan. Singh called him the “embodiment of a mentally tough, selfless & courageous soldier”

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spoke to both United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and United Kingdom NSA Mark Sedwill last night, reports said. Pompeo said the US will pressurise Pakistan to take action against terror. Sedwill too gave complete assurance of the UK’s support to India.

The US called on India and Pakistan to cease all cross-border military activity and for a return to stability. US State Department told ANI that the US urges both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation,including direct communication. Further military activity will exacerbate situation, the state department said.

Pakistan violated ceasefire at 6 am on Thursday in Krishna Ghati sector along the Line of Control in Poonch district. Indian Army retaliated effectively. Firing stopped around 7 am, ANI reports.

Fearing an escalation of the current tensions between India and Pakistan, the Pentagon on Wednesday urged the two South Asian neighbours to avoid further military action. Canada also called for de-escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan. Meanwhile, the United States, United Kingdom and France have asked the 15-member United Nations Security Council sanctions committee to subject Maulana Masood Azhar, the head of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, to an arms embargo, global travel ban and asset freeze.

An IAF pilot was captured by Pakistan after an air combat Wednesday during which the two sides said they shot down each other’s warplanes that followed an unsuccessful attempt to target Indian military installations in retaliatory strikes that sparked fears of war.

The aerial engagement between India and Pakistan for the first time since the 1971 war marked a dramatic escalation of confrontation prompting world leaders to urge the two neighbouring countries to exercise “utmost restraint”. India said it shot down a F-16 warplane of Pakistan while it lost a MiG 21 during the fierce engagement between the air forces of the two countries along the Line of Control(LoC).

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan sought to defuse the escalating tension by saying war is futile and can lead to unknown consequences while making an oblique reference to the nuclear weapons that both countries possess.

“I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation? If this (situation) escalates, it will no longer be in my control or in (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s,” Khan said in a live television broadcast, as he offered to hold talks with India to resolve issues.

The Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) summoned the acting high commissioner of Pakistan Syed Haider Shah and demanded immediate and safe return of the pilot identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

 stand next to the wreckage of Indian Air Force's helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district in Kashmir. Reuters

stand next to the wreckage of Indian Air Force’s helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district in Kashmir. Reuters

It was also made clear to Pakistan that no harm should be caused to the Indian defence personnel, the ministry said, adding it has conveyed strong objection to the neighbouring country at the “vulgar display” of an injured personnel in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention.

In a strongly worded statement, the MEA said the envoy was clearly told that India reserves the right to take “firm and decisive action to protect its national security”.

Pakistan detained the pilot following the aerial engagement in which a Pakistani jet, stated to be a F-16, was downed by Indian air defence forces in Jammu region’s Rajouri sector. The IAF also lost a MiG 21 jet in the engagement, an Indian official said. Pakistan has denied losing a jet.

The Pakistan Army retracted its earlier statement that two IAF pilots were arrested and in the evening said it had “only one” pilot in its custody.

“There is only one pilot under Pakistan Army’s custody. Wing Comd Abhi Nandan is being treated as per norms of military ethics,” Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said in the evening.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given an update on the latest security situation by the chiefs of the three armed forces following violation of Indian airspace by Pakistani fighter jets in Jammu and Kashmir and the capture of the Indian pilot across the LoC, sources said.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, senior officials of the Indian Navy, Army and the Air Force and other security officials also had a meeting to discuss the current security situation, they said.

A day after India bombed Jaish-e-Mohammed’s(JeM) biggest training camp in Pakistan, it was a day of hectic developments moving with dizzying rapidity.

Three Pakistani fighter jets entered Indian air space at 9:58 AM to target key military installations in Rajouri and Naushera in Jammu and Kashmir, as part of the retaliatory strike, official sources said.

Though three Pakistani jets violated Indian air space, the package of the aircraft deployed by Pakistan Air Force(PAF) for the operation was “significantly large” as it comprised a fleet of JF-17 and F-16 combat aircraft, the sources said.

The sources said the Pakistani jets targeted Indian army’s bases in Krishna Ghati and Nangi Tekri and an ammunition point in Narian. However, the bombs dropped by the Pakistani jets fell in uninhabited areas.

Minutes after Pakistani jets violated Indian air space, the IAF’s Combat Air Patrol (CAP), comprising MiG-21 and other jets engaged with the enemy aircraft, successfully thwarting their attempts to bomb a number of key military installations in Naushera and Rajouri, they said.

Islamabad claimed it hit back at India by bringing down two Indian military aircraft, one of which crashed in Pakistan occupied Kashmir(PoK) while the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir.

“This morning PAF (Pakistan Air Force) jets while remaining in Pakistani airspace engaged six targets across the LoC,” Major General Asif Ghafoor told reporters in Islamabad.

“Our pilots locked on those six targets and we struck on open places,” he said, adding that it was decided that the PAF will not hit the military targets.

He said some of the targets were in Bhimber galli and Naran area where the supply depots were engaged from a distance.

“After the PAF strikes, 2 IAF jets entered Pakistani airspace and the PAF took them on and the two IAF were shot down. The wreckage of one (aircraft) fell inside Pakistan (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) while the second fell inside India.”

“Original targets were military posts and administrative facilities but we did not target those,” he said.

The spokesman claimed that targets engaged by the PAF were changed to avoid any loss of life.

“It was not retaliation in the true sense but it was an action to show that we can retaliate. We do not want to push the region to war. We want peace.”

As tension mounted, the entire airspace north of New Delhi was briefly “vacated”. Nine airports in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab were closed for civilian traffic for some part of the morning but opened later in the day.

Jammu and Kashmir was the centre of much of the action on a day of escalating tensions between the two neighbours.

There was also nightlong heavy firing and shelling on forward and civilian areas from across the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch with the Army and the Border Security Force(BSF) being put on the highest degree of alertness.

All residents of the border areas were asked to remain inside their homes and not venture outside.

In a terse press statement earlier in the day, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, accompanied by Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor, said, “Pakistan has responded this morning by using its Air Force to target military installations on the Indian side. Due to our high state of readiness and alertness, Pakistan’s attempts were foiled successfully.”

He said the Pakistan Air Force activity was detected and the Indian Air Force responded instantly.

“In that aerial engagement, one Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft was shot down by a MiG 21 Bison of the Indian Air Force. The Pakistani aircraft was seen by ground forces falling from the sky on the Pakistan side.

“In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG 21. The pilot is missing in action….”

Expressing concern over the well-being of the IAF pilot, leaders of various parties said Pakistan should abide by Geneva Convention and ensure his safe return home.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini called on India and Pakistan to show the “utmost restraint” in their escalating confrontation. British Prime Minister Theresa May also urged both the countries to exercise restraint to avoid further escalation.

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Updated Date: Feb 28, 2019 19:27:49 IST

Updated: February 28, 2019 — 2:02 pm