UAE airlines suspend flights to Pakistan amid military escalation

IAF pilot,Farhan Akhtar,Sushmita Sen

Both sides have been urged to show restraint.

The pilot and the Indian Air Force (IAF) are at the heart of the crisis between two countries who have conducted air strikes on each other's territory in the last two days. Pakistan's military later circulated a video of a man with a mustache who identified himself as the Indian pilot, sipping tea and responding to questions, mostly by saying, "You know I can't answer that".

On Wednesday, security forces killed two Jaish militants in a gun battle, Indian police said.

There remains the risk that the tensions between two bitter rivals will result in the worst-case scenario, Sultan Mehmood Hali, a retired group commander of the Pakistan Air Force, told RT.

The CAA tweeted that it "has officially closed its airspace until further notice", while a Pakistani military spokesman said the decision had been taken "due to the environment".

Several other airlines, including Emirates and Qatar Airways, suspended flights to Pakistan on Wednesday after the South Asian nation closed its air space following heightened tensions with neighboring India. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said in a Twitter post, referring to the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. He had said earlier that two pilots were captured, but did not explain the discrepancy.

It said Pakistan has "no intention of escalation, but we are fully prepared to do so if forced".

The officer's composure and calm despite his hostile reception and the fact of being in captivity at a time of high tensions between India and Pakistan came through in the videos.

India's Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar acknowledged the loss of a MiG-21 fighter jet and its pilot.

Eyewitnesses said soldiers fired into the air to keep residents away from the crash site.

Pakistan says it shot down two Indian fighter jets and has captured two pilots.

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What have India and Pakistan said?

It was made clear that Pakistan would be well advised to ensure that no harm comes to the Indian defence personnel in its custody.

In case of a contingency, weapons would be launched on "warning" - that is, on the detection of a signal from Pakistan, for instance - or "launched on launch", if the other side were to initiate a nuclear strike.

Pakistan says Indian warplanes dropped bombs near the town of Balakot, but there were no casualties.

Pakistan used heavy calibre weapons in 12 to 15 places along the de facto border in Kashmir, known as the Line of Control (LoC), a spokesman for the Indian defence forces said on Wednesday.

The escalating hostilities have also affected travel around the Indian subcontinent.

The two countries have also exchanged volleys of heavy artillery fire.

A senior Indian official told the Guardian the Pakistani jets were likely to have struck three evacuated villages, Nadian, Lam and Jhangar, in the border district of Rajouri shortly after 10.30am.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson said Indian planes engaged with the Pakistan aircraft and brought one of them down. It accused Pakistani soldiers of firing mortars and missiles "from civilian houses, using villagers as human shields".

Indian warplanes carried out pre-dawn airstrikes in Pakistan Tuesday on a Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for talks with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Tension has been elevated since a suicide auto bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on February 14, but the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Tuesday when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base.

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