Pakistan PM Imran Khan warns of Kashmir escalation, offers talks with India

Pakistan PM Imran Khan warns of Kashmir escalation, offers talks with India

Imran Khan, Pakistan PM
File picture of Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday (Feb 27) called for talks with India and said he hopes “better sense” would prevail.

Mr Khan was speaking on national television after Pakistan claimed it shot down two Indian jets over its airspace in disputed Kashmir.

One fell into Pakistani-held Kashmir, while the other came down on the Indian side, Pakistan said. Both India and Pakistan lay claim to all of Kashmir, but only control parts of it.

There are fears it could lead to an all-out conflict between both nuclear-armed countries.

Pakistan said earlier on Wednesday that it had captured the pilots, but insisted it did not “want to go towards war” with its neighbour. India confirmed one pilot was missing.

READ: Malaysians advised to postpone non-essential travel to areas affected by India, Pakistan tensions

Indian Air Force fighter jet crash in Kashmir
Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, on the outskirts of Srinagar, on Feb 27, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Tauseef Mustafa)

The Pakistani prime minister said on TV on Wednesday afternoon the airstrike was to “show Pakistani capability” and said there should be “no casualties or damage”.

He called for talks with India, saying he hoped “better sense” would prevail to de-escalate the dispute following air strikes on both sides.

“History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation. My question is that given the weapons we have, can we afford miscalculation?" Mr Khan said during the brief TV broadcast.

"We should sit down and talk. I once again invite India to come to the negotiating table.”

He alluded to the nuclear arsenal of both South Asian countries and added: "If escalation begins from here, where will it go?"

Imran Khan speech on India planes
Pakistani shopkeepers watch on a television the broadcasting of Prime Minister Imran Khan's speech, at a market in Islamabad on February 27, 2019. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan called for talks with India on February 27 and warned of a catastrophe should the conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals continue to escalate. (Photo: AFP/Farooq Naeem)

Ties between the neighbours are under intense strain after a suicide bombing in Indian Kashmir on Feb 14 killed 40 troops.

On Tuesday, India flew its jets into Pakistani airspace and struck what it said was a camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the militant group that claimed the Kashmir bombing.

It was India's first air strike on Pakistani soil since the neighbours fought a war in 1971, when neither had nuclear weapons.

"India does not wish to see further escalation of this situation. India will continue to act with responsibility and restraint," India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said during talks in China with her counterparts from Beijing and Moscow.

India-Pakistan military balance

AIRPORTS CLOSED

In a sign of the deepening crisis, Pakistan closed its airspace "until further notice". Airports in India were also shuttered, and a vast area north of New Delhi was closed to civilian flights.

All international and domestic flights from Pakistan’s major airports - including Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and Sialkot airports - were suspended, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.

READ: Pakistan closes airspace as India tensions rise: Aviation authority

In India, at least six airports were shut - Srinagar, Jammu and Leh in Kashmir and Amritsar, Chandigarh and Dehradun, and a vast area of airspace north of New Delhi was closed to civilian flights.

Scores of flights were cancelled and many between Asia and Europe that would normally fly over Kashmir have been diverted, aviation company officials said on condition of anonymity.

Stranded passengers queue at airline counters in Jammu airport
Stranded passengers queue at airline counters following the shut down of the airspace for commercials flights as tensions increase with Pakistan, at Jammu airport in Jammu on Feb 27, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Rakesh Bakshi)

The Aviation Authority of India did not respond to requests for comment.

Source: Agencies/CNA/mi

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