India, Pakistan claim to down each other's warplanes as tensions rise

India, Pakistan claim to down each other's warplanes as tensions rise
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Pakistan and India on Wednesday both said they had shot down each other's warplanes over the disputed Kashmir region, a day after Indian fighter jets struck the country for the first time since the 1971 war, Reuters reports.

Tensions have been rising in the region that both countries claim since a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on Feb. 14.

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India ordered an airstrike over Kashmir targeting the Jaish-e-Mohammed fighter group, marking the first major state-sanctioned military action in Kashmir by either side since 1999.

Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed credit for the Feb. 14 bombing.

Pakistan had said that Indian warplanes dropped bombs near the Pakistani town of Balakot but there were no casualties, according to The Associated Press.

On Wednesday, India fired mortar shells across the frontier dividing Kashmir, hitting the village of Kotli. Six people were killed in that attack, including children, local police official Mohammad Altaf said, per the AP.

Pakistan responded to the shelling by closing down its civilian airspace and shooting down the two Indian warplanes.

India has acknowledged that one of its air force planes was “lost” in skirmishes with Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called for peace talks Wednesday to ensure “better sense can prevail.”

“History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation. My question is that, given the weapons we have, can we afford miscalculation,” Khan said during a televised broadcast, according to Reuters. “We should sit down and talk.” 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not yet responded to Khan's calls for dialogue.

The two sides have issued conflicting reports on the damage done to opposing fighters.

A spokesperson for the Pakistan armed forces, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, said they shot down two Indian fighter jets that entered the country's airspace, per Reuters.

India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that India had actually foiled Pakistan's aerial attack.

Kumar told a news briefing that India shot down a Pakistani jet and lost just one plane, whose pilot is “missing in action” rather than captured.

“Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts,” Kumar said, per Reuters.

Pakistan denies any losses of planes.

Conflict over the Kashmir region, which both nations claim in its entirety but only control partially, has been simmering for years, with troops on both sides frequently exchanging fire, but the events of the last two days mark a significant escalation in tensions.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard Pompeo'China will not sit idly by' if US sells fighters to Taiwan, official says The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Iceland's prime minister will not be in town for Pence's visit MORE spoke separately with the foreign ministers of both nations and urged them to avoid “further military activity” following Tuesday’s air strike.

“I expressed to both ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost,” Pompeo said in a statement on Tuesday.

China and the European Union have also called for restraint, according to Reuters.