MOMENT When #IndianAirForce Pilot, Wing Commander Abhi was arrested alive after successful air combat with #PAF within Pakistani territory. Picture: Twitter / Pakistan Defence Command
MOMENT When #IndianAirForce Pilot, Wing Commander Abhi was arrested alive after successful air combat with #PAF within Pakistani territory. Picture: Twitter / Pakistan Defence Command

Australia issues warning on air strikes

AUSTRALIA has urged Pakistan and India to avoid further military action as the conflict in Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed neighbours heats up.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was very concerned by the reports of the escalation in the conflict, with both countries launching air strikes in the past two days.

It comes as Pakistan's military said it shot down two Indian warplanes in the disputed region of Kashmir and captured a pilot, answering an airstrike a day earlier by Indian fighter jets inside Pakistan and raising tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals to a level unseen in two decades.

Troops on the ground have also exchanged fire at numerous locations in the disputed territory claimed by both sides.

"If those reports are correct, we would certainly urge both sides to exercise restraint. To avoid further military action, this is a dangerous cycle of escalation," Senator Payne said during a visit to London.

"I would encourage direct dialogue between both countries to endeavour to resolve these matters in a peaceful way." Senator Payne said "the cycle of escalation … is very dangerous for all concerned".

The Department of Foreign Affairs is monitoring the situation in the two countries but no travel advice has been issued for Australians as yet. Senator Payne was in London for a meeting with her counterpart, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, to discuss a post-Brexit free trade deal between the two countries and the shared efforts to promote the international rules based order.

 

In this image taken from video released by Pakistan's military, showing what they claim to be an Indian pilot who was captured after his plane was shot down. Picture: AP
In this image taken from video released by Pakistan's military, showing what they claim to be an Indian pilot who was captured after his plane was shot down. Picture: AP

PAKISTAN PM'S CHILLING NUKE WARNING

It comes as Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a chilling nuclear warning as a bloodied captive Indian pilot was forced to thank the country's army for rescuing him from an angry mob.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne urged a dialogue between India and Pakistan. Picture Kym Smith
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne urged a dialogue between India and Pakistan. Picture Kym Smith

During a televised address, Mr Khan asked: "Can we afford any miscalculation with the kind of weapons that we have and you have?"

Mr Khan said that an air raid by his own air force had been a carefully measured retaliation - without collateral damage - for Monday's attack by India.

But he warned against any further escalation.

"If a war talks place, it will not be in my or Narendra Modi's control," he warned ominously, referring to the two nation's nuclear arsenals. "If you want any kind of talks on terrorism, we are ready. Better sense must prevail. We should sit down and talk.

"All wars in world history have been miscalculated, those who started the wars did not know where it will end," he said.

The statement came on a day when both sides had shot down each others warplanes.

In a separate video released on social media a captive Indian pilot, named as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, is seen sipping a cup of tea with his wounds dressed, reports The Sun.

 

He appeared in good spirits and thanks his captors for a "fantastic" cuppa, and said he is being taken care of by the Pakistan army and expected the same gesture for any Pakistani officer by the Indian army.

It was a stark contrast to the previous videos released showing the man being paraded and beaten at a crash site, and interrogated at a Pakistani Air base.

Seemingly in violation to Geneva Convention rules that prohibit public displays of prisoners, the military circulated a video of Varthaman in which he was blindfolded, with his feet and hands tied and blood running down his face.

In the video, he refused to reveal any information about his capture - or captors.

DOGFIGHT ABOVE KASHMIR

Earlier, India and Pakistan claimed to have shot down each others' aircraft over disputed Kashmir, with Pakistan releasing vision of a captured pilot.

The clash came as Pakistan's air force conducted a retaliatory raid in Kashmir following Monday's strike by India.

"It was our plan to not cause any collateral damage, and not to cause any casualties," Prime Minister Khan said. "We simply wanted to show capability. Two Indian Migs crossed Pakistan's Borders, and we shot them down."

Indian government authorities have since confirmed one of its fighter aircraft, a Mig-21, had been shot down and reported its pilot 'missing in action'. A spokesman has told Indian media the loss came as the Indian Air Force 'successfully pushed back' Pakistani F-16 fighter aircraft conducting the raid on Indian-controlled Kashmir.

INDIAN LOSS CONFIRMED

Photographs and footage presented to support the shoot-down claims in Pakistani media were initially mostly falsely attributed, being from prior Indian military accidents.

However, Pakistan's defence ministry has since released images confirmed as showing a captured Indian pilot. The injured pilot identified himself as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. Photographs of documents demonstrate he was the pilot of an Indian Mig-21.

 

"The Pakistan Air Force was detected and the Indian Air Force responded instantly," and Indian Air Force statement reads. "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. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody."

 

Indian Air Force Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor attends a press briefing. Kumar said one of its Mig-21 fighter aircraft was missing and that India was still
Indian Air Force Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor attends a press briefing. Kumar said one of its Mig-21 fighter aircraft was missing and that India was still "ascertaining" whether its pilot was in Pakistan's custody. Picture: AP

 

Indian media reports suggest the Pakistani F-16s lured Indian Mig-21s into the range of ground-based air defences after bombing targets within Indian-controlled Kashmir.

While Pakistan claims it has a second Indian pilot in its custody, no supporting evidence has yet been released. India has not confirmed or denied the loss of a second pilot.

Pakistan's army also released mobile phone footage of what it claims were Kashmir citizens pelting an Indian rescue helicopter with stones once it touched down in a bid to rescue the pilot of the downed Mig-21.

Pakistan's Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said one of the allegedly downed planes reportedly crashed in Pakistan's part of Kashmir while the other went down in Indian-controlled section of the Himalayan region.

CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT ORDERED OUT

The claims came as India cleared the skies north of Delhi and ordered a series of northern civilian airports to close. The list included airports in Amritsar, Jammu, Srinagar and Leh, Kullu-Manali, Kangra, Shimla and Pathankot. Indian news agency ANI also reported the airspace above the capital Delhi was being cleared.

A short time later, Pakistan's civil air authority ordered all of its airspace closed to commercial traffic. All aircraft were being redirected towards the Gulf of Oman.

India, however, has since revoked the civilian flight ban.

 

HELICOPTER CRASH 'UNRELATED'

An Indian helicopter reportedly crashed in occupied Kashmir. Local and social media reported the crash at Garend Kalan village, 7km from Budgam in central Kashmir.

The Hindustan Times reports the crashed aircraft was a Mi-17 military helicopter that came down after experiencing a mechanical failure near Srinagar airport. It says both occupants were killed.

 

RETALIATORY RAID

Pakistan launched a raid over the disputed border in retaliation for Indian air strikes earlier yesterday. Spokesman for Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohammad Faisal, tweeted: "(the) sole purpose of this action was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self defence. We do not wish to escalate but are fully prepared if forced into that paradigm."

Pakistani officials say their combat aircraft bombed Indian-controlled Kashmir, targeting 'non military' objectives. Indian media says Nadian, Laam Jhangar, Kerri in Rajouri district were bombed.

The dramatic escalation between the two nuclear powers came hours after Pakistan said mortar shells fired by Indian troops from across the frontier dividing the two sectors of Kashmir killed six civilians and wounded several others.

Pakistani reporters and troops visit the site of an Indian air strike in Jaba, near Balakot, Pakistan. Picture: AP
Pakistani reporters and troops visit the site of an Indian air strike in Jaba, near Balakot, Pakistan. Picture: AP

 

CROSS BORDER CONFLICT

The crash came as Pakistani police reported mortar shells fired by Indian troops from across the frontier in the Himalayan region of Kashmir have struck homes, killing six civilians and wounding several others amid increasing tensions between the two South Asian nuclear rivals.

Local police official Mohammad Altaf says six people, including children, were killed Wednesday in Kotli village in Pakistan's part of Kashmir, which is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety.

Pakistani and Indian troops deployed in Kashmir often trade fire.

The latest civilian casualties came a day after tensions escalated sharply following a pre-dawn air strike by India that New Delhi said targeted a terrorist training camp in northwest Pakistan.

Pakistan says Indian warplanes dropped bombs near the town of Balakot but there were no casualties.

Kashmir is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety.

 

- with The Sun