India asks Pakistan to return IAF pilot, ensure his safety
New Delhi: The government Wednesday said it expected the "immediate and safe return" of an Indian pilot in Pakistan's custody after fighter jets of both sides engaged in an air battle. In a demarche, India also lodged a strong protest at what it called an "unprovoked act of aggression by Pakistan", saying its jets targeted military installations in India.
In the worst escalation of hostilities between the countries in decades, a day after India's air strike to target a terror camp in Balakot, fighter jets of both sides engaged in direct battle. Pakistan later put out a video of the Indian Air Force pilot whose MiG-21 jet had crashed after shooting down a Pakistani aircraft.
"India also strongly objected to Pakistan's vulgar display of injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention. It was made clear that Pakistan would be well advised to ensure that no harm comes to the Indian defence personnel in its custody," said New Delhi in its demarche.
Earlier, the government said that Pakistan had responded to its "counter-terrorism action" by using its Air Force to target Indian military installations, but the attempts were foiled. The Pakistani F-16 aircraft shot down by the MiG 21 Bison, crashed on Pakistani territory in the Lam Valley area.
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.
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 being put on the highest degree of alertness.
Pakistan Army on Wednesday said it has arrested "only one" Indian pilot, retracting from its earlier statement that two IAF pilots were under its custody.
"There is only one pilot under Pakistan Army's custody. Wing Comd Abhinandan is being treated as per norms of military ethics," Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said. "I am an IAF officer. My service No is 27981," a blindfolded man - who identified himself as Wing Commander Abhinandan - said in a short video released by the Pakistan Army.
Earlier, Ghafoor claimed that two Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots were arrested. One pilot is injured and has been shifted to a hospital, while another one is unhurt, the spokesman had said.