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Pakistan says it has arrested an Indian Air Force pilot after dogfight along Kashmir LoC

By Harish C Menon

This post has been updated.

A day after India carried out air strikes on terrorist bases in Pakistan, fighter jets of the two countries got into a dogfight today (Feb. 27). Both sides claimed to have downed each other’s aircraft. Pakistan also said it had arrested an Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot whose plane crash landed on its side of the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

“Today, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) undertook strikes across Line of Control from within Pakistani airspace. This was not a retaliation to continued Indian belligerence,” a statement from the Paksitani foreign ministry read. The PAF jets breached the border in Nowshera sector in J&K Rajouri district, the Press Trust of India said, citing officials.

An Indian ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson, later in the day, confirmed the intrusion by PAF, adding that an Indian Mig 21 Bison aircraft had shot down a PAF plane that also crashed on the Pakitani side of the LoC.

However, on the arrested pilot, the Indian official was rather vague. “…unfortunately, we have lost one Mig 21 and the pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody,” said Raveesh Kumar, the MEA spokesperson.

Indian media reports initially cited defence sources denying the Pakistani claims, saying “all our pilots are accounted for.”

Reports also said that an IAF plane crashed in J&K’s Budgam area following a technical fault, killing two pilots and a civilian. It remained unclear if this incident was related to today’s skirmish as MEA’s Kumar did not have anything to say on this and refused to take any questions.

Yesterday, IAF conducted a “non-military pre-emptive strike” on a terrorist camp of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group in Balakot area of the neighbouring country’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The operation was carried out following intelligence inputs that the JeM planned to carry out several terrorist strikes across the country, Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said at a press meet yesterday (Feb. 26). It also came just days after a JeM cadre detonated an improvised explosive device in Pulwama, Kashmir, resulting in the death of over 40 Indian paramilitary personnel.

Now the PAF’s intrusion into Indian air space significantly escalates the spiraling situation between the two nuclear-armed military powers of the Indian subcontinent.

Meanwhile, the troops of both countries have been exchanging heavy artillery fire in the state’s Sialkot sector.

In J&K’s Shopian district, two JeM terrorists were reportedly gunned down today morning by Indian security forces in a shootout.