On February 27, Pakistan Air Force jets undertook a strike in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) from Pakistani airspace. The Pakistan Air Force also shot down two Indian fighter jets. One of the aircrafts fell inside Azad Kashmir and the other fell inside IOK. One Indian Air Force pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhi Nandan, was captured by the Pakistani Army on the ground.
Pakistan said “it struck non-military targets, avoiding human loss and collateral damage” during a strike in IOK and the “sole purpose” of this action was “to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defence.” In a televised address to the nation, and India, on February 27, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, said the two countries could not afford any miscalculation because of the weapons both countries possess. He reiterated his message of peace and recommended dialogue as a way of moving forward, while assuring India of Pakistan’s cooperation. However, the Prime Minister maintained the “sole purpose of our action was to convey that if you can come into our country, we can do the same” while referring to the PAF airstrike in Indian Occupied Kashmir.
On February 26, the Indian Air Force crossed the Line of Control, entering 3-4 nautical miles into Pakistani airspace but flew back, dropping payload into a forest near Balakot, after Pakistani fighter jets intercepted them. No casualties or damage was reported.
The situation between Pakistan and India became highly tense after Indian aircrafts intruded into Pakistani airspace from Muzafarabad sector on February 26, 2019. Pakistan Air Force intercepted the intruding planes. Following the air space violation by Indian jets, Indian Foreign Secretary, Vijay Gokhale claimed that the Indian Air Force carried an air strike on what it said was a “militant training base of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)”. He said the action was taken in response to the killing of 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers on February 14, 2019 in Pulwama in IOK. He further claimed that a “large number” of militants, including JeM commanders were killed in the strike. Gokhale said “a pre-emptive strike became absolutely necessary because there was credible intelligence that JeM was planning more suicide attacks in India. Pakistan rejected the Indian Foreign Secretary’s claims, and maintained no casualties or damage to infrastructure occurred as a result of the strike, stating firmly that the Indian aircrafts dropped their payload in an “empty area.” Pakistan, however, made clear that India committed “uncalled aggression” when it violated Pakistani airspace and warned that it would “respond at the time and place of its choosing”. On the following day, Pakistan’s Air Force undertook a strike in IOK from Pakistani airspace and shot down two Indian fighter jets. One Indian pilot identified as Wing Commander, Abhi Nandan was captured by the Pakistani Army. Hours after the incident, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed that India had indeed lost one jet- a MiG 21. However, the MEA also claimed that India had shot down a Pakistani fighter jet, but gave no evidence of this claim. Pakistan responded to the Indian claim by categorically denying that any of its planes had been shot down by India. As a result of rising tensions between the two nations, Pakistan decided to close it’s airspace. This event constitutes the first time the two nuclear-armed powers have launched air strikes against each other since the Pakistan-India war of 1971. The confrontation has raised the possibility of military escalation between the two arch rivals whose relations have remained hostile due to the Kashmir Dispute.
Addressing the joint session of Parliament, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on February 28 that Pakistan would release the captured Indian pilot, Abhi Nandan as “a gesture of peace.” Prime Minister Imran Khan also reminded India that talks over Kashmir are important as “this issue is because of Kashmir.”
On February 27, 2019, the Indian government summoned the Pakistani Envoy and handed over a demarche demanding the “immediate and safe return” of the captured pilot. The US, China, Britain and other world powers have urged restraint from Pakistan and India as tensions continue to escalate. Meanwhile, Turkey said that it supports Pakistan’s position, and rejected the accusations levelled by India on Pakistan that it was behind the Pulwama attack.
On February 21, the UN Security Council (UNSC) urged all states to “cooperate actively” with India in bringing to justice all those responsible for the Pulwama attack in which 40 paramilitary Indian soldiers were killed on February 14, 2019.
India, despite its best efforts, was unable to succeed in pushing the UN Security Council members to implicate Pakistan for the Pulwama attack.
In a televised address to the nation and India on February 19, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan was ready to cooperate with India in its investigation of the Pulwama attack in IOK. However, the Pakistani Premier vowed retaliation if attacked.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said Islamabad will take action if India shares any actionable evidence concerning Pulwama’s attack.
On February 14, at least 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed after their convoy was hit by an explosives-laden vehicle in Pulwama in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi vowed “a befitting reply” to the perpetrators of the attack. India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which takes decisions on matters of security and strategic affairs, met in New Delhi to discuss the deteriorating security situation in IOK. Following the CCS meeting, Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley said that there was “incontrovertible evidence” of Pakistan’s involvement in the attack. Jaitley said that India would take “all possible diplomatic steps to ensure the complete isolation” of Pakistan. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry strongly rejected any attempts “to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations.” India has been battling an armed conflict in IOK where more than 500 people including, civilians, fighters and Indian troops were killed in 2018.
On February 13 , Indian troops killed two Kashmiri civilians in Budgam district of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). The killings occurred during a cordon and search operation by Indian troops in Budgam district.
The killings triggered anti-India protests in the region, with hundreds of residents demanding an end to India’s illegal occupation.
On February 3, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). During Modi’s visit, a complete shutdown was observed in IOK to register protest against Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the territory.
The Indian authorities placed Hurriyat leaders including Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq under house arrest to prevent them from leading anti-India demonstrations on Modi’s visit. The Indian Prime Minister also visited Ladakh region, where he inaugurated the construction of a tunnel connecting Ladakh with the Kashmir Valley.
On February 5, President Arif Alvi vowed Pakistan’s “political, diplomatic and moral support” for the people of Kashmir in their “just struggle for the right of self-determination.” He also asked India to stop massive human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
President Alvi was addressing the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly in Muzaffarabad on “Kashmir solidarity day”. Pakistan’s President urged the UN to send a “factfinding mission” to IOK and fulfil its pledge to the Kashmiris regarding a UN-sponsored plebiscite. He also warned India not to “justify its act of terrorism by killing innocent Kashmiris” and then labelling them “as militants”.
During his visit to London on February 4, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addressed the International Seminar on “Human Rights Violations in IOK” in the UK Parliament.
Speaking at the conference, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister called upon Indian authorities to ban the use of pellet guns against unarmed protesters in IOK and initiate an inquiry into the “human rights violations” against Kashmiris. The event was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan (APPG-Pakistan) at the House of Commons. On January 31, 2019, India had asked the UK government not to host the Kashmir solidarity conference in the British parliament. However, India could not succeed in stopping the event, as the UK government said “Britain’s Members of Parliament are independent of government and it is for individual members to decide who they meet and for what purpose.” • In a televised interview on February 6, 2019, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reiterated the demand for a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir saying “that is a commitment by India as part of the UN agenda…Give the people the right to self-determination.”
According to Dawn on February 1, a team of Pakistani experts led by Commissioner for Indus Waters, Syed Mehr Ali Shah inspected four hydropower projects at Chenab basin in India, including 1,000MW Pakal Dul, 48MW Lower Kalnai, 850MW Ratlay and 900MW Baglihar dam.
The team also inspected the Baglihar dam. After concluding his visit, Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters appreciated the Indian authorities for cooperating with the Pakistani team in carrying out the inspection of these projects.