IAF pilot in Pak custody; India demands safe return of Abhinandan

New Delhi: A day after Indian Air Force attacked terror bases in Pakistan eliminating 350 Jaish-e-Mohammed militants, an IAF pilot was taken under Pakistan Army’s custody and a fighter jet of Pakistan was shot down yesterday.

Heavy firing and shelling on forward and civilian areas ensued nightlong from across the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch, and the Army and the Border Security Force have been put on high alert. All residents of the border areas were asked to remain inside their homes and not venture outside.

Pakistan initiated unprovoked cease fire violation by shelling with heavy calibre weapons in 12 to 15 places all along the LoC. Indian Army retaliated and its focused fire resulted in severe destruction to Pakistan Army yesterday. Both the nations claimed to have shot down other’s fighter jets.

Even as high tension prevailed in the Indo-Pakistan border, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, said their Army had in custody two Indian pilots. He also stated war is futile and can lead to unknown consequences while making an oblique reference to the nuclear weapons that both countries possess. However, in the evening, they retracted the statement and said “only one pilot under Pakistan Army’s custody. Wing Comd Abhinandan is being treated as per norms of military ethics.”

Abhinandan

Indian officials revealed a Pakistani Air Force F-16 fighter jet was shot down by Indian air defence forces in Jammu region’s Rajouri sector. During the encounter, a MiG 21 was lost and the pilot was missing.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar along with Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor issued a statement saying Pakistani fighter jets violated Indian air space in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch and Nowshera sectors but were pushed back by Indian aircraft, and details are being ascertained about Pakistan’s claim of having captured one Indian pilot and later confirmed he was indeed in Islamabad’s custody.

Pakistan has used its air force to target military installations in India in response to Indian counter-terrorism operations but their attempts were foiled successfully, said the External Affairs Ministry yesterday.

A video was released by Pakistan that showed a blindfolded man identifying himself as Varthaman. He refused to answer specific questions about him and the nature of his operation. India asked the neighbouring nation to immediately release the pilot safely.

Meanwhile, an IAF helicopter crashed in Budgam in Kashmir, and at least five people were killed in it. And as tension mounted, nine airports in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab were closed for civilian traffic in the morning but opened later in the day, and the entire airspace north of New Delhi was briefly vacated.

NT Bureau