On February 26, twelve days after the JeM attack, Indian fighter jets bombed inside Pakistani territory, claiming to have hit a camp belonging to the armed group and eliminating “many rebels”.
An infuriated Islamabad, which denied any casualties in the Indian bombing, launched its own incursion across the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between the two countries in the disputed Kashmir region.
The dogfight resulted in the capture of a downed Indian air force pilot, who was released on March 1 as part of a “peace gesture” by Pakistan.
Meanwhile, violence and deaths continue in Kashmir, the Himalayan territory claimed in full by the two arch enemies.
Here are all the latest updates as of Monday, March 4:
India-Pakistan train service resumes
The operation of a bi-weekly cross-border train service between India’s capital New Delhi and Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore has resumed, according to a Pakistani railway official.
Ejaz Shah, Pakistan railways spokesman said the train service, known as Samjhauta Express, left Lahore on Monday for India’s border town of Attari, with some 180 passengers on board.
The neighbours agreed on Saturday to restart the rail link after suspending it last week due to the “prevailing tensions” between the two countries.
The first train left India on Sunday.
Pakistan PM: ‘I’m not worthy of Nobel Peace Prize’
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he is “not worthy” of the Nobel Peace Prize after growing calls on social media and by his ruling party to award him for his “sagagious” role in defusing tensions with India.
“The person worthy of this would be the one who solves the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people and paves the way for peace and human development in the subcontinent,” Khan wrote on Twitter on Monday.
I am not worthy of the Nobel Peace prize. The person worthy of this would be the one who solves the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people and paves the way for peace & human development in the subcontinent.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) March 4, 2019
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry submitted a resolution to the National Assembly on Saturday, suggesting Khan, 66, receive the prestigious award.
More than 400,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the prize be given to Khan.
As the world held its breath during the tense India-Pakistan standoff, Khan made the surprise announcement last week that the captured Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, would be freed in a “peace gesture”. Varthaman was handed over to Indian authorities on Friday.
Indian Air Force chief: ‘We don’t count human casualties’
Amid conflicting claims over the number of armed fighters killed in the Indian air attack inside Pakistani territory, the country’s air force chief has said it’s not their job to count casualties.
According to Indian media reports, when asked about how many Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) fighters were killed in the February 26 raid, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said, “Indian Air Force is not in a postilion to clarify the number of casualties. The government will clarify that. We don’t count human casualties, we count what targets we have hit or not.”
Dhanoa’s response came amid a controversy over the Indian government coming up with no evidence to back its claim that its attack had destroyed JeM camps in Balakot area in northern Pakistan and killed “a very large number” of armed fighters.
Islamabad denies any rebel camp was attacked or people killed in the attack.
On Sunday, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah claimed “250 terrorists were killed”. His statement came shortly after an Indian minister said the Balakot strike was “meant to warn [Pakistan], not kill.”
Sunday, March 3
Kashmiris use lull in violence to move to safety
Residents of villages near the LoC say it was quiet overnight on Sunday, their first lull since the dangerous escalation between Pakistan and India erupted last week.
In the Chakoti area in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, many villagers are using the calm to leave their homes and move to safety.
Nazakat Hussain says he has no other option but to leave because his family does not have underground shelters or bunkers to protect them. He tells The Associated Press news agency that the rough weather and snow, along with the cross-border shooting, prevented his family from leaving earlier.
|A father who fled his hometown in Chakoti hugs his crying daughter. The family has taken shelter in a school at Hatian Bala, 40 kilometres from Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir [M D Mughal/AP]|
Moazzam Zafar, a Pakistani government official, says 200 families are taking shelter in three large government buildings in the territory.
Zafar says the authorities are providing warm clothing, bedding, food and medicine, and will establish more such camps.
In call with Khan, May urges action on armed groups
British Prime Minister Theresa May‘s office says she emphasised the importance of Pakistan taking action against all “terrorist groups” in a call with Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“She welcomed his commitment to reducing tensions with India,” May’s office says.
“The leaders discussed the need to address the causes of this conflict. The prime minister emphasised the importance of Pakistan taking action against all terrorist groups, in support of global efforts to combat terrorism.”
Protesters in Lahore condemn India’s ban of JeI
Hundreds of people gather in Pakistan’s eastern city Lahore to protest against India’s decision on Thursday to ban the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) group in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
India’s home ministry has accused the group of “unlawful association” and supporting rebellion in the region.
The Lahore protest is organised by the political party Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan.
“Kashmir will become Pakistan,” chant protesters holding Pakistan and party flags.
Liaquat Baloch, a senior JeI leader in Pakistan, says: “India is crazy about war and their failure is in front of the world. They are killing Kashmiris, firing is going on continuously at the Line of Control and now they have imposed a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami in occupied Kashmir.”
|Supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami protest in Lahore against India’s ban [K M Chaudary/AP Photo]|
US looking into ‘misuse of F-16s’ by Pakistan
The embassy of the United States in Islamabad says Washington is “seeking information” on whether Pakistan used US-built F-16 jets to down the Indian fighter jet, which may violate the F-16 sale agreements between the two countries.
Pakistan says it did not use F-16s in shooting down the jet when it crossed the LoC that acts as a de facto border in Kashmir. Islamabad says this was an act of self defence.
“We are aware of these reports and are seeking more information,” a US embassy spokesperson told Reuters news agency. “We take all allegations of misuse of defense articles very seriously.”
US often inserts restrictions on how its exported military hardware can be used through so-called end-user agreements.
Pakistan moves all PSL matches to Karachi
Pakistan’s cricket board announces that all eight matches of the country’s T20 cricket league scheduled to be held in Pakistan will now be played in Karachi due to “logistical and operational challenges”.
The decision is made following the delayed resumption of commercial flights to the airport in Lahore, which was set to host three matches on March 9, 10 and 12, the board says in a statement.
“Due to the recent and prevailing uncertainty, we felt it critical to make a decisive decision at this juncture,” PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said.
The Pakistan Super League kicked off in the United Arab Emirates last month. The final will be played in Karachi on March 17.
Pakistanis seek Nobel Peace Prize for PM Khan
Pakistan’s ruling party joins a social media campaign advocating a Nobel Peace Prize for Prime Minister Imran Khan for his “sagacious” role in defusing tensions with India.
The move comes a day after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry submits a resolution suggesting he receive the prize to the National Assembly.
The leader who is playing the central role in defusing regional tensions and promoting peace and stability in such a complicated and tough environment.
— Aasma khan yousafzai (@Anakhansays1) March 1, 2019
The resolution is likely to be tabled on Monday for a vote in the assembly, Sibghat Virk, a member of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) says.
More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the award be given to Khan.
The hashtag #NobelPeacePrizeForImranKhan began trending on Twitter after Islamabad handed back captured Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman as a “peace gesture” on Friday.
Pakistan allows restricted flights at Lahore airport
Pakistan’s civil aviation authority says it is allowing restricted operations at the Allama Iqbal international airport in the eastern city of Lahore.
This comes after the resumption of partial operations at Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Islamabad.
Other airports in Gilgit Baltistan, Punjab province and the interior Sindh region remain closed, the agency says on Twitter.
Read the full story.
Saturday, March 2
Global Muslim body urges India, Pakistan to talk
Pakistan’s foreign ministry says the world’s largest body of Muslim-majority nations has adopted a resolution urging India and Pakistan to de-escalate tensions and resolve their issues “through peaceful means”.
The ministry said in a statement that at the end of a meeting in the United Arab Emirates, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) “reaffirmed its unwavering support for the Kashmiri people in their just cause”.
It said the OIC expressed concern over this past week’s “Indian violation of Pakistani airspace; affirmed Pakistan’s right to self-defense; and urged India to refrain from the threat or use of force”.
The resolution came a day after Pakistan’s foreign minister skipped the meeting to protest the host’s decision to invite India, a non-member.
Pakistan receives body of citizen killed in Indian jail
Pakistani authorities have received the body of a citizen killed in an Indian jail amid growing tensions between the countries, Pakistan’s foreign office has said.
“India had failed to protect the Pakistani prisoner,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told in a press conference in the eastern city of Lahore.
Shakir Ullah was allegedly stoned to death by inmates of Jaipur central jail on February 20.
Pakistan has formally lodged a complaint with the Indian government and requested India to immediately provide the details of inquiry of the murder and post-mortem report, which have not been provided so far.
Pakistan has demanded “safety of all Pakistanis, especially Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails to prevent recurrence of such tragic and reprehensible incidents”.
Indian authorities handed over Shakir Ullah’s body at Wagah border, a day after Pakistan released an Indian pilot as a peace gesture to help calm tensions.
India’s defence minister meets freed pilot
India’s defence minister has met the pilot who was handed over by Pakistan on Friday in a “gesture of peace”.
The ministry of defence released images showing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman meeting Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at an air force medical facility in New Delhi.
The Press Trust of India news agency reported that the air force pilot debriefed the minister about his detainment in Pakistan.
The news agency said the pilot was undergoing medical tests at the facility.
Varthaman was captured on Wednesday after his plane was shot down by the Pakistani military.
— ANI (@ANI) March 2, 2019
Two Pakistani soldiers killed: army statement
Pakistan’s army says in a statement that two of its soldiers were killed in Nakiyal near the Line of Control in an “exchange of fire while targeting Indian posts undertaking firing on civilian population”.
This brings the toll on both sides to seven since the release of the Indian pilot on Friday.
Kashmir shelling resumes after release of captured Indian pilot
Indian and Pakistani soldiers again targeted each other’s posts and villages along their volatile frontier, killing at least five civilians and wounding several others, officials on both sides said.
Two siblings and their mother were killed by Pakistani shelling into Indian-administered Kashmir, police said, while a boy and man were killed by Indian shelling on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control.
Friday, March 1
Seven killed in Kashmir clashes
Four members of India’s security forces, two rebels and one civilian have been killed during gunfights in Kupwara district, Indian-administered Kashmir, according to local media reports.
In response to a tip-off about the presence of rebels, security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Kupwara, The Indian Express newspaper reports, involving police and military personnel.
The civilian, who died at hospital from a bullet wound sustained during clashes with security forces in a nearby area, has been identified as 21-year-old Wasim Ahmad Mir, according to an official statement by local police.
Modi praises returned pilot
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says in a tweet India is “proud” of returned pilot Abhinandan Varthaman’s “exemplary courage”.
Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan!
The nation is proud of your exemplary courage.
Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 1, 2019
Modi has been accused by opposition politicians of exploiting the ongoing confrontation with Pakistan for political gains ahead of India’s upcoming elections, which are scheduled to be held in April and May.
Read our full story here.
Pakistan: Varthaman treated ‘in line with international law’
Pakistan’s foreign ministry says in a statement Varthaman has been “treated with dignity and in line with international law”, and that his release is “aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India”.
Pakistan releases captured Indian pilot
Pakistan has released captured Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, handing him back to Indian authorities after days of hostility between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
He crossed over into India by foot, escorted by Pakistani troops and Indian diplomats.
Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman, reporting from the Indian capital, New Delhi, said the processing of Varthaman’s return at the Wagah-Attari border crossing had appeared to have gone “according to plan, though the Pakistani’s have delayed the release of the Wing Commander at least three times during the day”.
“We don’t know why there has been a delay, but it seems that the wing commander … is now on his way home,” Rahman said.
|Varthaman crosses over into India by foot, escorted by Pakistani troops and Indian diplomats [PTV via Reuters]|
Indian defence official Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor tells reporters at the scene Varthaman is being taken for medical checks.
“This check-up is mandated particularly because the officer has had to eject from an aeroplane,” Kapoor says.
Situation remains ‘critical’
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, said the situation remains “critical” following Varthaman’s release amid concerns over how to “defuse this escalating crisis”.
“The Pakistani military is on full red alert, they are flying constant air patrols all over Pakistan and although the airspace has been open, the movement of aircraft between India and Pakistan, especially commercial aircraft is still under restrictions,” Hyder said.
|Pakistan has handed pilot Abhinandan Varthaman over to Indians at the Wagah border [BK Bangash/AP]|
“What we are being told here in Pakistan is that the Indians are still in a belligerent mood, that Modi is trying to capitalise on this crisis for the elections coming up within the next two months,” he added.
“So the ball, as far as Pakistan is concerned, is in India’s court.”
Red cross expected to process pilot’s return
Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman, reporting from the Indian capital, New Delhi, said Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s release and return to India was likely going to be processed by the Red Cross as “neutral arbiters”.
“We do not expect any sort of a press conference with the Wing Commander but there may be a press statement or a press conference with senior air force or military officials later in the day,” Rahman said, adding the pilot’s release was unlikely to end the ongoing row between Islamabad and New Delhi.
“As far as India is concerned the situation is still very tense, Indian-administered Kashmir is still under curfew, there was a skirmish on Thursday with cross-border firing which resulted in the death of one woman … and earlier on Friday there has been an ongoing gun battle in the area of Handwara [in Indian-administered Kashmir] where four security personnel and one civilian have been killed,” Rahman said.
“Regardless of what’s going on with the wing commander and him being transferred back to India, the situation in terms of any semblance of peace and tranquility is certainly far from it. The fighting continues in the administered areas, both on the Pakistani and Indian side, and the [Indian] government itself says it is still going to deal with Pakistan and isolate it internationally.”
Pakistan’s army chief holds talks with US, UK military officials
Pakistan’s army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has spoken with top military officials from the United States, Britain and Australia amid a volatile standoff with neighbouring India, according to a spokesperson for the country’s armed forces.
Military spokeperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet on Friday that Bajwa discussed the ongoing spat with India and its “impact on peace & stability in the region” in a call with US Central Command Commander Joseph Votel as well as with top British and Australian military figures.
COAS had tel comm with Comd USCENTCOM, CDS UK, CDF Australia and Ambs of US, UK & China in Pak. Prevailing stand off between Pakistan & India & its impact on peace & stability in the region & beyond discussed. “Pak shall surely respond to any aggression in self defence”, COAS.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) March 1, 2019
Bajwa vowed Pakistan would “surely respond to any aggression in self-defence”, according to the Twitter post. Ghafoor confirms Bajwa has also spoken by phone with the ambassadors of China, Britain, and the United States.
Indian PM Modi pledges tough response to ‘terror’
India’s prime minister said a tough response by his country’s armed forces to recent attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir have curtailed the influence of “terror” groups in the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to curtail acts of “terrorism” further.
Modi, who faces elections this spring, spoke at a public rally on Friday in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Pakistan brings Indian pilot to border for handover
Pakistani officials have brought the Indian pilot captured from a downed plane to the Wagah border crossing with India for handover.
On the Indian side of the border, turbaned Indian policemen lined the road as a group of cheering Indian residents from the area waved India’s national flag and held up a huge garland of flowers to welcome Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman back.
Pakistan to lodge ‘eco-terrorism’ complaint against India
Pakistan plans to lodge a complaint against India at the United Nations, accusing it of “eco-terrorism” over air raids that damaged pine trees and brought the nuclear-armed nations to blows, a government minister said on Friday.
Indian warplanes on Tuesday bombed a hilly forest area near the northern Pakistani town of Balakot, about 40km from India’s border in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. New Delhi said it had destroyed an armed training camp and killed hundreds of “terrorists” – which Pakistan denied.
Climate Change Minister Malik Amin Aslam said Indian jets bombed a “forest reserve” and the government was undertaking an environmental impact assessment, which will be the basis of a complaint at the UN and other forums.
“What happened over there is environmental terrorism,” Aslam told the Reuters news agency, adding that dozens of pine trees had been felled. “There has been serious environmental damage.”
Pakistan partially reopens airspace
Four Pakistani airports will begin partial operations on Friday with a full resumption of commercial flights on Monday, the country’s civil aviation authority said.
The agency issued a statement on Friday saying some domestic and international flights will be allowed to and from the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta.
It said full operations at all airports, including the one located in the eastern city of Lahore that borders India, will resume on March 4 at 1pm local time (08.00 GMT).
Thousands gather at border to welcome Indian pilot
|People and media gather before the arrival of an Indian air force pilot, who was captured by Pakistan on Wednesday, near Wagah border, on the outskirts of the northern Indian city of Amritsar [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]|
Thousands of Indians, some waving flags and singing, gathered on Friday to give a hero’s welcome to an Indian air force pilot due to be returned across the border after being shot down by Pakistan.
Media on both sides of the Wagah border crossing was pushed back around 1 kilometre from the border, sources told Al Jazeera.
“He [Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman] will be debriefed by not only the secret service, but mainly the air force and there will be no media sound bites from him for the foreseeable future as and when he will come back to Indian soil,” said Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman, reporting from the Indian capital, New Delhi.
“That is part of the protocol when you are, in theory, a prisoner of war,” he added.
Read our full storyhere.
|People shout slogans before the arrival of Abhinandan near Wagah border on Friday [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]|
Pakistan FM boycotts OIC meeting
Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Friday he would not attend a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Abu Dhabi this weekend because his Indian counterpart had been invited to the event.
“I will not go to the council of foreign ministers,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi told parliament in the capital, Islamabad, adding that lower ranking officials would attend to represent Pakistan’s interests.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has been invited by the Emirati hosts as a “guest of honour” to the two-day gathering, set to kick off on Friday.
Qureshi said India is neither a member of the 57-nation organisation nor has observer status.
Social media fake news fans tension
With India and Pakistan standing on the brink of war this week, several false videos, pictures and messages circulated widely on social media, sparking anger and heightening tension in both countries.
The video of an injured pilot from a recent Indian air show and images from a 2005 earthquake have been taken out of context to attempt to mislead tens of millions on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and its messenger service, WhatsApp.
Pratik Sinha, co-founder of fact-checking website, Alt News, said they had received requests to verify news from journalists and people on social media.
“It’s been crazy since Tuesday. There is so much out there that we know is fake, but we’re not able to fact-check all of it,” Sinha told Reuters news ageny.
In Pakistan, a purported video of a second captured Indian pilot was being widely circulated. Fact-checking website Boom noted the clip was from an air show in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, where two planes crashed on February 19.
“Everyone has a role to play in ensuring misinformation doesn’t spread on the internet and we encourage people who use Twitter not to share information unless they can verify that it’s true,” a spokeswoman for Twitter said.
Thursday, February 28
JeM chief in Pakistan, says FM
The founder of armed group Jaish-e-Mohammed, Masood Azhar, is in Pakistan and is “very unwell”, Pakistan’s foreign minister has revealed.
“He’s unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house. Thats the information I have,” Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the CNN in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
When questioned why he was not arrested, Qureshi replied: “If they [India] give us evidence which is acceptable to the courts of Pakistan… they [JeM] will go to the court.”
“If they [India] have solid inalienable evidence, share it with us so that we can convince the people and the independent judiciary of Pakistan,” he added.
Putin hopes for prompt settlement
Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed hope for a prompt settlement between India and Pakistan, according to a Kremlin statement.
Putin spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the telephone on Thursday.
The Russian leader expressed his condolences on the Pulwama suicide attack on February 14 that killed Indian paramilitary troops.
“The two leaders condemned international terrorism and any methods used to support it, stressing the need to step up the uncompromising fight against the terrorist threat,” the statement read.
UAE crown prince speaks to Modi, Khan
UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed held telephone conversations on Thursday with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan in an effort to defuse tensions between the two neighbours.
“Mohammed bin Zayed emphasised on the importance of addressing recent developments and prioritising dialogue and communication,” according to his Twitter account.
Turkey’s Erdogan welcomes pilot’s release
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed Pakistan’s announcement to release the Indian fighter pilot it captured after downing his jet, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party said.
In a telephone conversation, Khan and Erdogan discussed the recent tensions between India and Pakistan, as well as recent developments in the region, the Turkish president’s office confirmed.
India bans Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir
Indian government bans Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) in Indian-administered Kashmir for five years, accusing it of supporting an armed rebellion in the disputed region that is at the heart of an escalating conflict with rival Pakistan.
India’s home ministry said the JeI has been banned for “unlawful association” and for activities “prejudicial to internal security and public order”.
Read our full story here.
India on ‘heightened’ alert despite Pakistan promise on pilot
India is welcoming Pakistan’s decision to free a captured pilot whose Mig-21 fighter was shot down in air raids this week, but top generals from the army and air force make it clear that their forces remain on high alert to respond to any “provocation” from Islamabad.
“We are happy that our pilot, who had fallen across the line of control and was in the custody of Pakistan, is being released,” says R J K Kapoor, air vice marshal.
“We are extremely happy to have him back. We want to see him back,” he tells reporters.
Standing alongside him, Major General Surendra Singh Mahal of the Indian army warns Pakistan: “We are fully prepared and in a heightened state of readiness to respond to any provocation from Pakistan.”
Kashmir – Uneasy calm by day, ‘sheer terror’ at night
In the village of Bakoot, just a few kilometers away from the disputed Pakistan-India frontier, an uneasy calm prevails during the day. But the nights bring sheer terror, with darkness accompanied by a furious exchange of artillery shelling.
Read our correspondent Imran Khan’s dispatch from Pakistan-administered Kashmir here.
Modi criticised for ‘politicising’ Pakistan standoff
India’s opposition parties and civil society groups are criticising Modi for continuing his scheduled public events, including an election rally, while staying mum amid a major military stand-off with Pakistan.
Read our full report here.
Pompeo urges ratcheting down of India, Pakistan tensions
Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, says he has spoken with the leaders of India and Pakistan and has urged them to avoid “any action that would escalate and greatly increase risk”.
Pakistani airspace to open at 6pm on March 1
Pakistan’s airspace will remain closed to commercial flights until 6pm local time (13.00 GMT) on Friday, the country’s civil aviation authority said.
International flights have been rerouted, causing delays, instead of taking the normal route over the India-Pakistan airspace.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) February 28, 2019
PM: Pakistan to release Indian pilot tomorrow
Prime Minister Imran Khan says Pakistan will release the Indian pilot on Friday, two days after he was captured.
“We have an Indian pilot. As a peace gesture we will release him tomorrow,” Khan told a joint sitting of parliament in the capital, Islamabad on Thursday.
Khan also said he had unsuccessfully tried to make telephone contact with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Wednesday night.
Read the full report here.
Pakistan on high alert along LoC
Pakistan’s army is on “high alert” along the Line of Control – the de facto border dividing Kashmir into two parts, each administered by India and Pakistan.
“Pakistan armed forces are in a state of readiness for all eventualities,” a military statement on Thursday said.
Imran Khan ‘ready to speak’ to Indian PM Modi
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is ready to speak with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, on telephone, while offering peace, Pakistan’s foreign minister has said.
Speaking to local television channel Geo News on Thursday, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Pakistan is prepared to return the captured Indian pilot if it helps reduce tensions.
“I am sending a message to India: if the return of this pilot allows for a de-escalation, then Pakistan is ready to consider it,” Qureshi said.
“If you have any concerns, share them. If you have any evidence, give it to us. Today, [India] has sent a dossier … we have received it, we will examine it, and now come and speak to us on the basis of this dossier.”
“Pakistan is ready for any positive step,” he added. “Pakistan is ready to de-escalate the situation.”
Read the full story here.
Trump hopeful for India-Pakistan peace
US President Donald Trump is hopeful that India and Pakistan may be on the cusp of progress after increasing tensions.
Trump told reporters at the end of a two-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong un in Vietnam that India and Pakistan have “been going at it” and that the US has been involved, “trying to help them both out” to “see if we can get some organisation and some peace.”
“Hopefully that’s going to be coming to an end,” he said in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, on Thursday.
“I think probably that’s going to be happening,” adding: “We have, I think, reasonably decent news from Pakistan and India.”
India-Pakistan crisis: What we know so far
It has been two weeks since the suicide car bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir that killed at least 42 Indian paramilitary troops, sparking tensions between India and Pakistan.
Here is a look at all the events and reactions to the crisis so far.
UK urges restraint and de-escalation
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has expressed concern at the current situation in the region, urging India and Pakistan to show restraint and de-escalate, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.
Hunt spoke to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the phone on Wednesday evening.
Qureshi called on the UK to “play its due role in bringing down tensions between Pakistan and India.”
“The foreign minister added that the captured Indian air force pilot would be treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Conventions,” the ministry statement on Thursday said.
Signed in 1949 by representatives of 64 countries, the Geneva Conventions govern the protection for wounded members of armed forces, prisoners of war and civilians during armed conflict.
India-Pakistan rail link suspended
The operation of a bi-weekly cross-border train service between India’s capital New Delhi and Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore has been temporarily suspended due to the “prevailing tensions” between the two countries.
“Samjhuta Express will resume its operations as soon as the security situation improves between India and Pakistan,” a statement by Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.
Pakistan airspace to remain closed till Thursday midnight
Pakistan’s airspace will remain closed to commercial flights until midnight on Thursday, the country’s civil aviation authority said.
Since the existing NOTAM is effective until 2359 HRS of 28 February 2019, #Pakistan airspace shall remain closed.
Please stay in touch with your airlines for timely update on any further changes.
PCAA regrets the inconvenience to its patrons. 🇵🇰 Paindabad! https://t.co/X84odwOHfp
— CAA Pakistan (@AirportPakistan) February 28, 2019
Pakistan International Airlines, the national carrier, advised its customers to expect further delays, adding that all flights were being rescheduled.
Wednesday, February 27
India demands ‘safe’ return of pilot
India’s foreign ministry has told Pakistan’s acting high commissioner that New Delhi expects the immediate and safe return of a military pilot held by Pakistan after two Indian fighter jets were shot down over Pakistani airspace.
“It was made clear that Pakistan would be well advised to ensure that no harm comes to the Indian defence personnel in its custody. India also expects his immediate and safe return,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
‘There is no camp here, and no terrorists either’
Al Jazeera’s Asad Hashim reports from the site of Tuesday’s air raid by the Indian Air Force and found no sign of serious casualties or structural damage.
Read his full report here.
Life on the Line of Control
For villagers living on the de facto border between Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir, the threat of war is ever present.
Even when there is not all out conflict, shelling and clashes between Indian and Pakistani soldiers are not uncommon.
Journalist Rifat Fareed reports from the village of Silikot in the Indian-controlled side of the region, where she met residents whose lives have been scarred by conflict.
Read her full report here.
Pakistan and India, face to face
What is the Line of Control?
The Line of Control (LoC) is a 740km de-facto border separating Pakistani and Indian-administered Kashmir.
Islamabad and New Delhi have fought two wars over Kashmir since independence, with the LoC being the focus of the hostilities.
The actual line marks the military front when the two South Asian states declared a ceasefire ending the First India-Pakistan War.
Iran offers to mediate between India and Pakistan
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke on Wednesday on phone with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and offered mediation between India and Pakistan, after rising tensions between the two countries.
Zarif, whose Monday’s resignation was rejected by Rouhani on Wednesday, urged both countries to exercise restraint, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. ISNA said Zarif is going to speak to his Indian counterpart as well but did not specify any date.
Germany appeals for calm
Germany on Wednesday called on both Pakistan and India to de-escalate tensions after cross-border air raids set the region on edge.
“The federal government makes an urgent appeal for both sides to refrain from steps that could further escalate the conflict,” German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr told a news conference in Berlin, adding that India and Pakistan bear responsibility for regional stability.
Indian and Pakistani nuclear power
The Kashmir conflict, explained
In this explainer video, Al Jazeera looks at the history behind the conflict in Kashmir, and the factors that continue to fuel tensions.
India and Pakistan: Face to Face
This handy data set gives you some idea of just how powerful India and Pakistan are. From the number of fighter planes and tanks, to the types of missiles each has, we have you covered.
Flights to Pakistan and India cancelled
Airlines including Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad, have cancelled flights to Pakistan and some parts of India amid heightened tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Read the full report here.
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) February 27, 2019
EU Foreign Affairs Representative urges calm
Federica Mogherini has urged the “utmost restraint” amid tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.
India condemns ‘vulgar’ display of prisoner
Indian media outlet NDTV says government officials in New Delhi have condemned Pakistan’s publication of video and images showing a captured Indian pilot.
“India also strongly objects to Pakistan’s vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention,” the Indian government says in a statement.
The comments come as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets military officers to discuss the capture of the pilot.
Pakistani PM Imran Khan urges talks to calm situation
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to negotiate an end to the current crisis.
In a televised address, he said: “History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation. My question is that given the weapons we have can we afford miscalculation.”
Pakistani military now says it has one Indian pilot
Pakistan Armed Forces spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, has said the Pakistani army holds just one Indian pilot.
In an earlier comment, the military said it had two members of the Indian armed forces in custody. India says it has one pilot unaccounted for.
There is only one pilot under Pakistan Army’s custody. Wing Comd Abhi Nandan is being treated as per norms of military ethics. pic.twitter.com/8IQ5BPhLj2
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) February 27, 2019
UK “deeply concerned” about rising tension
UK Prime Minister Theresa May urged India and Pakistan to show restraint.
“The UK is deeply concerned about rising tensions between India and Pakistan and urgently calls for restraint on both sides to avoid further escalation,” May told Parliament.
“We are in regular contact with both countries, urging dialogue and diplomatic solutions to ensure regional stability.
“We are working closely with international partners including through the UN Security Council to deescalate tensions,” May says.
Emirates cancels flights to Pakistan
Dubai-based Emirates airline cancelled all flights to Pakistan and Afghanistan due to the closure of Pakistan’s airspace.
The news followed a similar decision by Bahrain’s national carrier, which suspended all flights to Pakistan earlier on Wednesday.
Turkey calls for calm between India and Pakistan
Turkey‘s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu voiced concern over the increasing tension between India and Pakistan.
“We are concerned over this tension. We want to call for common sense and calm between the parties. Steps that will escalate the tension should be avoided,” Cavusoglu said.
He pointed to the dispute over Kashmir as the source of the tension, telling reporters in the Turkish capital, Ankara, that it must be solved as soon as possible within the framework of international law.
Imran Khan urges “wisdom”, offers dialogue
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said his country is ready for dialogue with India and urged the need for “better sense to prevail”.
“I am addressing India. It is very important that we use wisdom,” Khan said in a televised address, emphasising that several countries have ended up at war in the past due to a lack of dialogue.
He stressed the need for the two nuclear-armed countries to remain cool-headed and to cooperate on security in the disputed Kashmir, saying “we will go and fight with you against terrorism”.
India says it shot down one Pakistani fighter jet and lost one of its own
India said it shot down one Pakistani fighter jet and lost one of its own to Pakistan.
Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian warplanes.
India’s Foreign Ministry admits one pilot is missing
India’s Foreign Ministry said one of their pilots is missing after Pakistan claimed to have captured two Indian pilots.
Ravish Kumar, the ministry spokesperson, also stressed need to “ascertain the facts” amid competing narratives with Pakistan.
“In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG 21. The pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed he is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts,” Kumar said.
Bahrain’s Gulf Air suspends all flights to and from Pakistan
Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air has suspended all flights to and from Pakistan with immediate effect due to the closure of Pakistani airspace, according to a statement from the company.
“On February 27, flights to/from Lahore, Multan and Islamabad are cancelled and all passengers will be transferred to next available flights when the airspace is open again,” the statement said.
India’s former ambassador to the US warns Pakistan
Retired diplomat Lalit Mansingh said a new red line with Pakistan has been drawn, adding that India’s policy of strategic restraint “is no longer”, according to the AP news agency.
India, Pakistan suspend flights, partially close airspaces
India and Pakistan confirmed the partial closure of their airspaces and suspension of commercial flights from several airports.
Pakistan indefinitely closed at least three airports in cities located near the Indian border, military spokesman Asif Ghafoor told reporters.
All international and domestic flights from major airports, including Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore, were also suspended for an indefinite period.
Meanwhile, India suspended flights from airports in the disputed region of Kashmir and the state of Punjab until further notice, officials said.
Pakistan does ‘not want to go towards war’: Military spokesman
Pakistan’s military spokesman said the country does “not want to go towards war” with India.
“We do not want escalation, we do not want to go towards war,” Major General Asif Ghafoor told reporters at a press conference in Rawalpindi, a city in western Pakistan.
He adds that the two Indian pilots who have allegedly been captured are “being treated well”. One is currently in custody and the other in the hospital, he said.
Pakistan claims it has captured two Indian pilots
Pakistan’s military said two Indian pilots were captured after their planes were shot down over Pakistani airspace. India denied the claim, saying all its pilots are accounted for, according to local media.
Airports in several Indian cities shut, Lahore airport cancels and delays flights
Indian news reports said that airports in Indian-administered Kashmir have been closed to civilian traffic shortly after an Indian air force jet crashed in the area.
The Press Trust of India news agency said the airports are in Srinagar, Jammu and Leh. Indian authorities declined to comment.
There were reports that several airports in Pakistan also closed, but Pakistan’s civil aviation authority said it cannot confirm that at this time. However, the website for the international airport in Lahore appeared to show a suspension of flights departing the city.
China reiterates call for restraint
|Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang calls for ‘lasting peace’ [File: Jason Lee/Reuters]|
China’s Foreign Ministry reiterated its call for India and Pakistan to exercise restraint.
“We hope that both India and Pakistan can exercise restraint, take initiatives that are conducive to promoting dialogue, meet halfway and make active efforts for lasting peace and stability in South Asia,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.
Pakistani warplanes enter Indian airspace, forced back: Indian official
Indian air force jets intercepted at least three Pakistani warplanes that crossed into Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday and forced them to turn tail, an Indian official says, amid heightened tensions following an Indian air attack that targeted a rebel camp inside Pakistan a day earlier.
The Pakistani jets intruded over the Bimber Gali-Naushera sector at the Line of Control, a ceasefire line that serves as the de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region, the official, who is based in the area, said.
The main airport in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, has been shut down for three hours, police in the city said.
India says it doesn’t want ‘escalation’
New Delhi is seeking to ease tensions with Islamabad as the US urges the nuclear-armed neighbours to “exercise restraint”.
India promised to act, sending warplanes into Pakistani airspace and striking what it says was a camp of JeM, the group that claimed the February 14 Kashmir bombing.
“The limited objective of that pre-emptive strike was to act decisively against the terrorist infrastructure of Jaish-e-Muhammad in order to pre-empt another terror attack in India,” Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj says during talks in Beijing with her counterparts from China and Russia.
“India does not wish to see further escalation of this situation. India will continue to act with responsibility and restraint.”