In Depth

Will India and Pakistan go to war?

Recent skirmishes are ‘steep escalations in the most serious military crisis in south Asia since 1999’

Pakistan and India have each claimed attacks on the other’s fighter jets as tensions reach a peak in the two nuclear powers’ dispute over Kashmir.

A Pakistan army spokesperson said the country's air force shot down two Indian jets after they crossed the Line of Control dividing Indian and Pakistani territory in the border region.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said one plane went down in Indian-controlled Kashmir, while the other crashed in Pakistan’s territory, where troops arrested the pilots.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan confirmed the attack and said the “pilots are with Pakistan”.

Meanwhile, India that its own forces had shot down a Pakistani jet over the heavily militarised border.

The skirmishes - just a day after India flew sorties into Pakistan for the first time in nearly 50 years - “are steep escalations in the most serious military crisis in south Asia since the pair fought a brief war in the Himalayas in 1999”, says The Guardian

The dogfights are the first publicly acknowledged such clashes between the two countries since they were last officially at war, in 1971. Commercial flights across Pakistan and north India have been cancelled as a result.

Khan has called for talks with India and said he hoped that “better sense” would prevail to de-escalate the dispute.

“History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation. My question is that given the weapons we have, can we afford miscalculation. We should sit down and talk,” he said during a short televised address to his nation.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “has not yet made any comment”, reports the BBC, but his foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, said her country would act “with responsibility and restraint”. 

"India does not wish to see further escalation of the situation," she said.

Tensions have been high since Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir last Thursday that claimed the lives of more than 40 members of India's security forces. It was the deadliest militant attack in the disputed region in decades.

India has said there was “incontrovertible evidence” that Pakistan had a “direct hand” in the attack, a claim which drew a stinging rebuke from Khan.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, subsequently appealed to the UN secretary general to help ease tensions with India that, as Reuters reports, have “escalated sharply”. 

Both India and Pakistan “are believed to possess more than 100 nuclear warheads each and have conducted atomic weapon tests”, says The Independent

And Pakistan “has refused to renounce a first-strike option with its atomic bombs should it feel outgunned in a conventional war”, the newspaper adds.

According to The Washington Post, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists organisation warns that “computer models have predicted that the physical impacts of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, or even a single strike on a large city, would be devastating and would reverberate throughout the world”. 

Separatist violence in Kashmir has killed at least 47,000 people since 1989, although “some human rights groups and nongovernmental organisations put the death toll at twice that amount”, reports CNN.

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