New Delhi: Pakistan Army on Wednesday retracted its statement claiming it had captured two Indian pilots, and said it had taken only one - Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman- in its custody.
Wing Commander Abhinandan is being treated as per norms of military ethics, military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet on Wednesday evening.
At a press briefing earlier in the day, he said that two pilots were “arrested” after Pakistani fighter planes shot down two Indian Air Force jets after they crossed the Line of Control (LoC).
Ghafoor had claimed that the second pilot was injured and receiving treatment at a hospital. “Two air force jets crossed over the LoC. Pakistan’s Air Force was ready. We engaged them and shot down two of their jets,” he said.
The wreckage of one fell on our side and that of the other fell towards the Indian side, he said. “We have arrested two pilots. We are behaving with them the way responsible countries behave with soldiers of other countries,” Ghafoor had claimed. Pakistan PM Imran Khan had also backed the claim of two Indian pilots being captured.
In a statement, the ministry of external affairs has acknowledged that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been captured by the Pakistani forces after his MiG-21 was shot down after he engaged Pakistani jets that 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".
In a statement issued after it summoned the acting high commissioner of Pakistan, the Ministry of External Affairs said it strongly objected 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. “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 statement read.
Ghafoor in his press conference had also claimed 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.
The Pakistani military wing also addressed the international community at large, saying that war between India and Pakistan would result in instability not just in a localized region, but destruction would go “far beyond.”