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IAF Pilot Who Engaged Pakistani Jets Missing in Action, Govt Says Checking Claim He Has Been Captured

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Pakistani planes targeted military establishments in Jammu and Kashmir, but were forced to retreat by alert Indian forces.

News18.com

Updated:February 28, 2019, 11:36 AM IST
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New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed that an Indian pilot is missing in action after a MiG-21 Bison fighter plane was lost while engaging with Pakistani jets after they violated Indian airspace.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that Pakistani planes targeted military establishments in Jammu and Kashmir, but were forced to retreat by alert Indian forces. In the engagement, a Pakistani aircraft was shot down by an IAF fighter jet, and the MiG-21 piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman "was also lost".

“Pakistan claims he (the pilot) is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts,” Kumar said at a press conference.

Kumar declined to take any questions and did not respond to claims by Pakistan’s military that it had shot down a second IAF jet.

Notably in the second official briefing by the government, since the Indian jets carried out strikes deep on Pakistani soil on Jaish terror camps, a senior representative - Air Vice Marshal, RGK Kapoor - from Indian armed forces was also present along with the MEA official.

“Against this Counter Terrorism Action [aerial strikes carried out on Tuesday morning on Jaish camps] Pakistan has responded this morning by using its Air Force to target military installations on the Indian side. Due to our high state of readiness and alertness, Pakistan’s attempts were foiled successfully,” said the MEA statement on Wednesday.

The MEA spokesperson also confirmed that India had shot down one Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft.

“The Pakistan Air Force was detected and the Indian Air Force responded instantly. 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,” Kumar added.

Pakistani Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor, in a tweet, said that Pakistan had captured one pilot, and not two, as claimed earlier in the day. Ghafoor had said at a press conference that one of the two Indian pilots was injured and receiving treatment in a hospital. The claim had also been backed by Pakistan PM Imran Khan.

Ghafoor had also said that Pakistani jets had shot down two IAF warplanes. "The wreckage of one fell on our side and that of the other fell towards the Indian side. We are behaving with him the way responsible countries behave with soldiers of other countries,” he added.

Pakistan military’s PR wing also shared a video of a blindfolded man claiming him to be the captured IAF pilot. Ghafoor in his press conference added that PAF jets had moved towards India earlier on Wednesday morning, though he did not clarify whether or not they breached the LoC, with an aim to “send a message”.

“Pakistan’s armed forces were left with no option but to respond [following IAF jet strike on terror camp in Balakot]. We decided that we will not engage any military target and that our target engagement will not result in any loss of life or collateral damage. When our air force was within limit, on those targets our pilots locked on and from a distance we fired.”

These targets, Ghafoor elaborated, were military supply depots. “We destroyed them with accuracy.” He added that Pakistan “doesn’t want to escalate. We don’t want to go to war.” He said that India should consider Pakistan’s offer for peace with a cool head.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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