We must now act with better sense, wisdom: Imran Khan
The aerial engagement raised the stakes in a face-off triggered by the Pulwama attack claimed by Pakistan-based terror group JeM and Khan reiterated his offer of talks and cooperation in an investigation into the assault during a televised address.Updated: Feb 27, 2019 23:53 IST
Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership on Wednesday called for talks with India to defuse tensions after both sides said they shot down each other’s combat jets, with Prime Minister Imran Khan saying the two nuclear-armed countries couldn’t afford any “miscalculation”. Pakistan initially said it downed two Indian warplanes within its airspace and captured two pilots, but later chief military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted that “only one pilot” was in custody.
Warplanes from the two sides engaged each other after Pakistan carried out what it said were “strikes across the Line of Control [LoC] from within Pakistani airspace” at non-military targets to “demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defence” following India’s air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed [JeM] training facility at Balakot.
The aerial engagement raised the stakes in a face-off triggered by the Pulwama attack claimed by Pakistan-based terror group JeM and Khan reiterated his offer of talks and cooperation in an investigation into the assault during a televised address.
“My question to the Indian government is, with the weapons we have, can we afford a miscalculation? Shouldn’t we think that if matters escalate, where will things go? Things will not be in my control or in [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi’s control,” he said.
“So, I again invite you [for talks]...We are ready for any type of dialogue on terror but I will tell you again, better sense should prevail at this time. We should resolve our problems by sitting together and talking,” he added.
Ghafoor told a news briefing at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi that combat jets had engaged open spaces at a distance from six targets from across the LoC because Pakistan “had no option but to respond” to India’s air strike on Tuesday.
“From within our boundaries, we locked on six selected targets and then carried out strikes on open spaces at a distance,” he said, adding this was done to demonstrate Pakistan’s capability and will to respond without causing any damage to the other side. India has claimed that the fighters tried to target military installations.
Ghafoor said Pakistan’s civilian government and armed forces “have always conveyed a message of peace to India and the route to peace goes through dialogue”.
He added: “From our side...we still do not want to escalate. We want to follow a path which leads to peace. The people of both countries and the region at large have a right to live in peace.”
Khan said Pakistan had not immediately responded to India’s air strike on Tuesday as it wanted to fully assess the damage. “Till we didn’t know [the damage], it would be irresponsible for Pakistan to take action and cause casualties in India when there were no casualties on our side,” he said.
“So we waited and took action today. We had a plan so that there was no collateral damage or casualties, we only wanted to tell India we have the capability – if you come into our territory, we too can go into your territory and conduct operations,” he said.
The standoff marks the first major foreign policy crisis for Khan, who is considered to close to the powerful military.
First Published: Feb 27, 2019 23:42 IST