Meanwhile, an Indian soldier was killed in India-administered Kashmir in the latest exchange of fire with Pakistani forces across the de-facto Line of Control that divides the territory between the South Asian neighbours.

Since 2004 there have been 80 incidents of
Since 2004 there have been 80 incidents of "fratricide" and 323 suicides in the Indian military, according to rights group Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). (Reuters Archive)

Thursday, March 21 

Indian soldier kills three colleagues

A paramilitary soldier in India-administered Kashmir shot dead three of his comrades early on Thursday, officials said, amid fresh violence raged in the restive territory.

Police said the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper opened fire on his colleagues with his service rifle at a camp in Udhampur, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of India-administered Kashmir's main city Srinagar.

"He shot himself too and is in a critical condition at a hospital," Jammu police official MK Sinha told AFP, saying the man "may have been under the influence of drugs".

According to rights group Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), 20 Indian armed forces personnel killed themselves in 2018, the most in a decade. Since 2004 there have been 80 incidents of "fratricide" and 323 suicides, it says.

Experts say that the factors include stress, long duty hours, denial of leave and domestic issues, prompting authorities to initiate de-stressing initiatives for soldiers such as yoga.

Separately on Thursday morning, an Indian soldier was killed when India and Pakistan again exchanged fire across the LoC near the southern area of Sundarbani, Indian army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand told AFP.

Wednesday, March 20

US remains concerned about tensions in South Asia

The United States remains concerned about India-Pakistan tensions as the two countries' militaries remain on alert despite some de-escalation in the region, a senior US administration official said on Wednesday.

"We do still see the militaries on alert and so we realise if there, God forbid, would be another terrorist attack then you could quickly see escalation in the situation once again," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Pakistan tells China of 'deteriorating situation' in India-admin Kashmir

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told his Chinese counterpart of the "rapidly deteriorating situation" and rights violations in India-administered Kashmir, and called for India to look again at its policies there.

Speaking in Beijing standing alongside the Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, Qureshi said his country appreciated the role China played once again "in standing by Pakistan in these difficult times".

"I also briefed the foreign minister on the rapidly deteriorating situation on the Indian side of Kashmir, intensification of human rights violations, especially after Pulwama," he said, referring to where the attack took place.

"This is a concern because that leads to a reaction and that reaction at times creates tensions in the region which must be avoided," Qureshi added.

"I think there's a need for a new assessment on how the situation on the Indian side of Kashmir should be handled by the Indians. There are now voices within India that are questioning the efficacy of the policy that they've followed for the last so many years," he said, without elaborating.

Wang, who is also China's foreign minister, said China has always believed that peace and stability in South Asia is in the joint interests of countries in the region and is what the international community wishes.

"China appreciates Pakistan's constructive efforts to ease the situation and calls on Pakistan and India to continue to exercise restraint and resolve the differences that exist via dialogue and peaceful means."

Tuesday, March 19

Teacher's custodial killing sparks protests in Indian-controlled Kashmir

Protests flared in parts of Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday after police said a man being questioned in connection with a security investigation had died in custody, the latest disturbances in one of the world's most militarised regions.

Rizwan Asad Pandit, a chemistry graduate who taught at a private school, had been arrested as part of a "terror case investigation", a police spokesman said.

Inquiries were being carried out into the cause of his death, the spokesman said.

Pandit's brother, Zulkarnain Asad Pandit, was sceptical that any investigation would reveal the truth.

"We want an investigation of it but we know nothing is going to happen," the brother said.

"We've all seen investigations for the last 20 years."

Protesters threw stones at police in several parts of the Muslim-majority region following news of Pandit's death, with shops shutting in parts of the main city of Srinagar. Police responded with tear gas.

Sunday, March 17

South Asia neighbours threatened to unleash missiles at each other

The sparring between India and Pakistan last month threatened to spiral out of control and only interventions by US officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, headed off a bigger conflict, five sources familiar with the events told Reuters news agency.

At one stage, India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, and Islamabad said it would respond with its own missile strikes "three times over", according to Western diplomats and government sources in New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington.

The way in which tensions suddenly worsened and threatened to trigger a war between the nuclear-armed nations shows how the disputed Kashmir region, which both claim and is at the core of their enmity, remains one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints.

The exchanges did not get beyond threats, and there was no suggestion that the missiles involved were anything more than conventional weapons, but they created consternation in official circles in Washington, Beijing and London.

Saturday, March 16

Pakistani military says it downs Indian drone

Major General Asif Ghafoor the spokesman for the Pakistani military said on Saturday that Pakistan Army soldiers had "shot down an Indian spy" drone along the Line of Control.

The Indian quadcopter had crossed 150 metres into Pakistani airspace according to a tweet by the Director General of the Inter-Service Public Relations. The Line of Control is the de facto border dividing the disputed Kashmir region between India and Pakistan.

Thursday, March 14

Agreement on pushing ahead for route for Sikh pilgrims

India and Pakistan agreed on Thursday to go forward with a new border crossing and route for Sikh pilgrims to visit a holy shrine in Pakistan, a rare glimmer of cooperation after tension flared over the neighbours' decades-old Kashmir dispute.

"Both sides held detailed and constructive discussions," the two countries said in a joint statement, after their officials met on Thursday at the Wagah checkpoint on their border to work out details of the crossing and the route.

The meeting was the first between the nuclear-armed foes since a dogfight between their warplanes over the disputed Himalayan region last month led to the downing of an Indian aircraft and the capture of its pilot, since returned home.

The talks were cordial and another meeting of technical experts is planned for next week, they said, adding that both sides had agreed to work towards soon making the route operational.

The Sikh minority community in India's northern state of Punjab and elsewhere has long sought easier access to the temple in Kartarpur, a village just over the border in Muslim-majority Pakistan.

Many Sikhs see Pakistan as the place where their religion began: its founder, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469 in a small village near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.

We spoke with Ramesh Singh Arora, chairman of Pakistan Sikh Council, who explains why the border crossing is important and what led to the breakthrough.

Pakistan air force says fighter jet test-fired smart missile

Pakistan's air force says one of its fighter jets successfully test-fired a locally developed missile, described as a "smart weapon."

The announcement follows recent skirmishes with rival India over disputed Kashmir during which Pakistan said it shot down two Indian planes and captured a pilot, who was later returned to India.

An air force statement says a JF-17 multi-role fighter aircraft on Tuesday fired the new missile, which has "day-and-night capability to engage a variety of targets with pinpoint accuracy."

A "smart" weapon is typically military language for a guided missile.

Air Force chief Mujahid Anwar was quoted as saying that "Pakistan is a peace-loving nation but if subjected to aggression by adversary, we will respond with full force."

There was no further information on the type of missile fired.

Wednesday, March 13

China at UN delays bid to blacklist JeM leader

China put on hold a request by Britain, France and the United States to add to the UN terror blacklist the leader of a Pakistan-based and proscribed militant group behind a suicide attack in India-administered Kashmir, diplomats said.

It was the third time that the UN Security Council was considering a request to put Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, on the UN sanctions blacklist, which would subject him to a global travel ban and assets freeze.

Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack in Kashmir that killed over 40 Indian troops.

China has twice blocked –– in 2016 and 2017 –– attempts to impose sanctions on Azhar.

In a note sent to the council, China said it needed more time to examine the sanctions request targeting Azhar, diplomats said.

Tuesday, March 12

Pakistani, Indian troops trade fire in Kashmir

A Pakistani police official says Indian troops from across the frontier in the disputed Kashmir region have shelled the Pakistani-controlled sector, killing a 70-year-old man.

Local police chief Arshad Naqvi said on Monday that the man was visiting his daughter the previous day in an attempt to try and take her to a safer area when he was killed.

An Indian army spokesman, Col. Rajesh Kalia, blamed Pakistani troops for initiating fire on Sunday, saying four villagers in Indian-controlled Kashmir were wounded.

Monday, March 11

Turkish president talks to Indian PM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the latest developments along the Pakistan-India border with India’s prime minister over the phone, according to Turkish sources on Monday. 

In a statement, Turkish Presidency Directorate of Communications said the phone call between Erdogan and Narendra Modi also addressed the bilateral relations. 

Late February, Erdogan held a phone talk with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss the recent tensions between the neighbours. 

On March 8, Erdogan also discussed the India-Pakistan tension with UN chief Antonio Guterres over the phone.

Saturday, March 9

Pakistan extends airspace closure for transit flights

Pakistan extended closure of its airspace for all transit flights till March 11, local media reported.

A state-run Civil Aviation Authority had earlier announced to open the airspace from Saturday, a local TV channel reported, citing the CAA notification.

The East and West-bound flights will have to use alternative routes to operate from and to Europe, North America, however some transit flights between the north and south will be allowed to fly over on some routes of the country's airspace.

The airspace was completely closed for local and international flights on February 27, following an air combat between Pakistani and Indian air forces.

India again warns Pakistan

India said on Saturday that its army is on a “strict vigil” for new attacks from Pakistan and renewed warnings to its neighbour to take concrete action against militant groups.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesman responded with scepticism to reports of scores of militants being rounded up in Pakistan this week.

“Our armed forces continue to maintain strict vigil and will remain determined in the defence of the nation and its citizens,” he said. 

“We have and we will continue to act with responsibility and maturity,” he added.

Friday, March 8

Militant groups 'will not be' allowed to operate in Pakistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said no militant group would be allowed to operate on Pakistani soil and carry out attacks abroad, days after his government began a crackdown against militant organisations.

"This government will not allow Pakistan's land to be used for any kind of outside terrorism," Khan said on Friday while addressing a public rally in southern Pakistan. 

"We will not allow any militant group to function in our country now."

Turn crisis into opportunity – China tells Pakistan, India

China urged India and Pakistan to move on from the recent escalation on the conflict between the two countries, according to media reports.

Talking to reporters in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that New Delhi and Islamabad should "quickly turn the page" and convert the present tensions into "an opportunity for the long term improvement" in their relations, the Indian news agency Press Trust of India reported.

"China hopes Pakistan and India will transform the crisis into opportunity and meet each other halfway," Wang said.

Thursday, March 7

Riyadh offers to mediate between Pakistan and India

Saudi Arabia has offered its "full cooperation" in defusing escalating tensions between nuclear rivals Pakistan and India.

The offer was made by Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir who arrived in Islamabad on a day-long visit to quell rising tensions between the two South Asian neighbours.

Jubeir, who is visiting Pakistan on the directive of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, met his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said a statement from Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.

Qureshi welcomed the crown prince's rare offer to mediate between Pakistan and India, which follows promised multibillion-dollar Saudi investment in the two countries in recent months.

Pakistan cracks down on militant-run schools

Pakistan has taken control of182 schools and detained more than 100 people as it intensifies its crackdown on banned militant organisations, the interior ministry said on Thursday.

"Law enforcement agencies have taken 121 people under preventive detention as of today," the ministry said in a statement, adding that religious schools, hospitals and ambulances were taken over.

Pakistan began a crackdown against militant groups this week amid growing international pressure in the wake of a bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir by a militant group based in Pakistan. 

Islamabad denies aiding militants and says its push against banned outfits is unrelated to the Indian and global pressure.

Blast in southern Kashmir kills one, wounds at least 29 

A grenade explosion at a bus stand in the southern Jammu city of India-administered Kashmir killed one and wounded at least 29 people on Thursday, police said.

"I request everybody to maintain calm," Jammu's police chief M K Sinha told reporters at the site of the blast. "We are chasing all leads."

The reason for the blast was unknown, but was called an "attack" by a senior Indian minister.

"The grenade attack in Jammu is condemnable," said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Twitter.

Jammu city is the winter capital of India-administered Kashmir.

Also on Thursday, Indian police claimed to have killed a rebel fighter in Kashmir's Handwara area. 

Neha Poonia joins TRT World  for more on the story.

Wednesday, March 6

Shelling continues on Kashmir frontier 

Indian and Pakistani soldiers shelled military outposts and villages along their highly militarised frontier in disputed Kashmir on Wednesday, in new violence despite stepped-up diplomatic efforts by the rival countries to ease tensions.

The two armies accused each other of initiating the artillery and mortar fire and small-arms gunfire. 

No casualties were immediately reported.

Satellite images show seminary still standing

Reuters reviews and releases high-resolution satellite images produced by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator.

The images show a seminary, formerly operated by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) outfit in northeastern Pakistan, appear to be still standing days after India claimed its warplanes had hit the outlawed group's training camp on the site and killed a large number of militants

Images by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator show, at least six buildings on the seminary site near Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, on March 4. The image is virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility.
Images by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator show, at least six buildings on the seminary site near Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, on March 4. The image is virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility. (Reuters)

The image shows no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrasa or other signs of an aerial attack.

Tuesday, March 5

Pakistan arrests dozens of suspects

Pakistan's Interior Ministry says authorities have arrested dozens of suspects, including the brother of the leader of the outlawed JeM group that India blames for the February 14 suicide bombing in India-administered Kashmir that triggered the crisis.

The interior ministry said it arrested 44 suspects. Among them was Mufti Abdul Rauf, the brother of JeM leader, Masood Azhar.

The ministry said the brother was among suspects listed in a file that India gave to Pakistan over the weekend.

Indian submarine warned away

Pakistan’s navy says it spotted and warned an Indian submarine approaching its territorial waters in the Arabian Sea not to attempt an incursion. 

The navy said in a statement on Tuesday that the Indian submarine wasn’t targeted, “keeping in view Pakistan’s policy of peace” under which Islamabad wants to de-escalate tensions with New Delhi. 

A navy official says the warning was “communicated” to the submarine during Monday’s encounter. 

The submarine then moved away. He didn’t elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity to talk to reporters.

India has yet to confirm or deny the incident.

Monday, March 4

Indian air force chief breaks silence on air strikes

Amid confusion over the number of casualties in last week's air strikes by India on Pakistan, the Indian air force chief said Monday they only count the targets hit and not the number of people killed.

"IAF [Indian Air Force] is not in a position to clarify the number of casualties. The government will clarify that. We don't count human casualties, we count what targets we have hit or not," Birender Singh Dhanoa said addressing a news conference in the southern city of Coimbatore, local daily Hindustan Times reported.

The remarks came a day after leader of India's ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah said "over 250 terrorists" were killed in air strikes.

Pakistan airspace fully reopened

Pakistan fully reopened its airspace, authorities said, days after it closed its skies to all air travel, leaving thousands stranded worldwide as tensions with India soared.

The decision to close the airspace came last Wednesday.

Pakistan-India train service resumes

The Samjhauta Express train service between Pakistan and India resumed its operations from Lahore on Monday. 

The announcement to resume the train service, which was suspended on February 3 due to increasing tensions between the two neighbouring countries, was made on Sunday, a day after Pakistan released an Indian Air Force pilot, arrested during a confrontation.  

The Samjhauta (Urdu for ‘’Agreement’’) Express train service began on July 22, 1976 under the Shimla Agreement that settled the 1971 war between the two nuclear-armed nations. 

The train normally runs between the two countries on Mondays and Thursdays. On the Indian side, the train runs from Delhi to Attari and on the Pakistan side, from Lahore to Wagah.

Sunday, March 3

Funerals for soldiers, prisoner held in Pakistan

Funerals were held for two Pakistani soldiers killed during gunfire between armies of Pakistan and India along the de facto border, Line of Control or LoC that separates disputed Kashmir. 

Funeral prayers were also offered for Shakir Ullah, a Pakistani prisoner who was stoned to death by inmates in an Indian jail, in northern Pakistan's Sialkot city, Geo TV reported. 

India handed over his body to Pakistan on Saturday at the same Wagah border where Pakistan freed an Indian pilot downed and captured by Pakistan last week.

Meanwhile, residents near LoC said it was quiet overnight, the first lull since a dangerous escalation last week bringing the two nuclear-armed rivals close to full-out war.

May hails Khan for de-escalation

Prime Minister Imran Khan had a telephone conversation with UK's Prime Minister Theresa May, in which Khan apprised May of Pakistan's perspective on the developments since the Kashmir suicide bombing incident, a foreign ministry spokesman said. 

May welcomed Khan's decision of releasing the Indian pilot, which has been widely appreciated by the international community. 

She mentioned the need for both India and Pakistan to de-escalate. She added that UK was in touch with both sides in this regard.

Pakistanis protest Jamaat-e-Islami ban in Kashmir 

Also on Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in Pakistan's eastern city Lahore to protest against India.  

The demonstration came after India's home ministry issued a notification against Kashmir's social, political and religious group Jamaat-e-Islami, accusing the group of supporting armed revolt in the region.

The Lahore protest was organised by political party Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan.

Saturday, March 2

Global Muslim body urges India, Pakistan to talk

Pakistan's foreign ministry says the world's largest body of Muslim-majority nations has adopted a resolution urging India and Pakistan to de-escalate tensions and resolve their issues "through peaceful means."

The ministry said in a statement on Saturday that at the end of a meeting in Abu Dhabi, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation or OIC "reaffirmed its unwavering support for the Kashmiri people in their just cause."

It said the OIC expressed concern over this past week’s "Indian violation of Pakistani airspace; affirmed Pakistan's right to self-defence; and urged India to refrain from the threat or use of force."

The resolution came a day after Pakistan's foreign minister skipped the meeting to protest the host UAE's decision to invite India, a non-member.

In a separate statement, OIC said it "condemns recent wave of Indian terrorism" and "mass blinding of Kashmiris" in India-administered Kashmir. 

India returns body of Pakistani prisoner 

India has handed over the body of a Pakistani prisoner who was beaten to death by inmates at an Indian jail last month apparently in retaliation for a February 14 suicide bombing in India-administered Kashmir that killed over 40 soldiers.

It was unclear on what charges Shakir Ullah had been held at the jail.

Pakistani government officials say border guards received Ullah's body on Saturday at the same Wagah border crossing in the eastern city of Lahore from where an Indian pilot was handed over to Indian officials a day before.

Erdogan urges India to respond to Pakistan's 'positive step'

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed Pakistan for releasing Indian pilot, hoping India will "respond to the positive step in the same way".

"It's an admirable step for our Pakistani brothers to release an Indian pilot. Our hope is that our Indian friends will respond to this positive step in the same way," he said.

Erdogan said Turkey is ready to do its part to de-escalate tension between Pakistan and India. 

"There is no use in escalating the tension and fueling the fire."

More deaths in Kashmir as India-Pakistan tensions escalate

Indian and Pakistani soldiers again targeted each other's posts and villages along their volatile frontier in disputed Kashmir, killing at least six civilians and two Pakistani troops, officials said on Saturday.

Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday, carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a February 14 suicide bombing in India-administered Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops. 

Pakistan retaliated, shooting down a fighter jet on Wednesday and detaining its pilot, who was returned to India on Friday in a peace gesture.

Fighting resumed overnight Friday. Pakistan's military said two of its soldiers were killed in an exchange of fire with Indian forces near the Line of Control that separates Kashmir between the rivals. 

It marked the first fatalities for Pakistani troops since Wednesday, when tensions dramatically escalated between the nuclear-armed neighbours over Kashmir, which is split between them but claimed by both in its entirety.

Three civilians were killed on each side in the latest escalation. 

TRT World's Hassan Abdullah has more from Islamabad.

Friday, March 1

Pilot shot down by Pakistan returns to India

A pilot shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani aircraft returned to India on Friday, after being freed in what Islamabad called a "peace gesture" following the two countries' biggest standoff in years.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, downed on Wednesday over Kashmir, crossed into India at the Wagah crossing point, hours later than expected and sporting a black eye.

"He was arrested when his military jet MIG-21 crashed in Azad Jammu & Kashmir [Pakistan-administered Kashmir] after being shot down by Pakistan Air Force for violating Pakistani airspace on February 27, 2019," Pakistan foreign ministry statement said.

"While in captivity, he was treated with dignity and in line with international law. Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr Imran Khan announced his return as a goodwill gesture aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India," the statement said.

Ahead of his release, Varthaman in a video statement released by Pakistani media, lauded Pakistani army and accused Indian media of sensationalising news and misleading people.

"Small issues are presented in incendiary way that misleads people," Varthaman said.

The released pilot will undergo a medical check-up, Indian officials said.

"This check-up is mandated particularly because the officer has had to eject from an aeroplane," Air Vice Marshal R G K. Kapoor told reporters near a border crossing in India's northern state of Punjab.

Pakistan accuses India of 'eco-terrorism', to lodge complaint at UN

Pakistan plans to lodge a complaint against India at the United Nations, accusing it of "eco-terrorism" over air strikes that damaged pine trees and brought the nuclear-armed nations to blows, a government minister said on Friday.

Indian warplanes on Tuesday bombed a hilly forest area near the northern Pakistani town of Balakot, about 40 km from India's de facto border in the disputed region of Kashmir. New Delhi said it had destroyed a militant training camp and killed hundreds of "terrorists".

Pakistan denied there were any such camps in the area and locals said a crow was killed and an elderly villager was hurt.

 "What happened over there is environmental terrorism," Climate Change Minister Malik Amin Aslam told Reuters, adding that dozens of pine trees had been felled. 

"There has been serious environmental damage."

India bans Kashmir's socio-religious group Jamaat-e-Islami

India has banned a largest social, political and religious group in India-administered Kashmir in an ongoing crackdown against rebels seeking the end of Indian rule in the disputed region.

The ban comes against the backdrop of the most serious confrontation between India and Pakistan in two decades.

India also imposed a security lockdown in several parts of the region on Friday, including in downtown areas of the main city of Srinagar, in anticipation of protests and clashes against Indian rule.

India's home ministry issued a notification against Jamaat-e-Islami on Thursday night, accusing the group as "unlawful association" and supporting militancy in the region.

Police have already arrested at least 400 leaders and activists, mainly from the Jamaat-e-Islami, which seeks self-determination for the Himalayan region, which is divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 but claimed by both in its entirety.

Pakistan to reopen airspace

Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority said airspace closed this week amid tensions with neighbouring India would reopen for commercial flights from 1100 GMT on Friday.

Indian pilot to be released at Wagah border

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said a downed Indian pilot will be handed over to Indian authorities later on Friday in an effort to de-escalate a crisis between the nuclear armed neighbours.

"As a gesture of peace and to de-escalate matters, the Indian pilot who is under arrest with us will be released today in the afternoon at the Wagah border," Qureshi told parliament, referring to the border crossing near Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore.

Thursday, February 28

India welcomes decision to release pilot

Indian military officials said on Thursday they welcomed Pakistan’s planned return of a captured pilot, but refused to confirm they would de-escalate a conflict between the two nuclear powers.

The pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, became the human face of the flare-up over the contested region of Kashmir following the release of videos showing him being captured and later held in custody.

“We are happy our pilot is being released,” said Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor, at a joint news conference of India’s three armed forces on Thursday evening.

He did not say when asked by reporters if India considered the return a de-escalation in the conflict.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the pilot would be released on Friday, to the relief of many Indians, even as his military reported that four Pakistani civilians had been killed by India firing across the disputed border in Kashmir.

“As a peace gesture we will be releasing him tomorrow,” Khan told Pakistan’s parliament on Thursday afternoon. Lawmakers thumped their desks in response.

Turkey, US, China, European Union and other powers have urged restraint from the two nations, as tensions escalated following a suicide car bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir on February 14.

Indian PM urges nation to 'fight as one'

A day after cross-border air raids escalated tensions with nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India will fight as one nation.

Speaking on Thursday to his party workers across the nation in a video conference, he said the enemy wants to destabilise the country.

"When the enemy tries to destabilise India, then one of their motives is to ensure that India's development is stalled.

"We must show that the nation will not stop. Our soldiers are defending our borders. We must also work like soldiers and continue our work," local broadcaster India Today reported.

"India will live as one; India will work as one; India will grow as one; India will fight as one," he added.

He went on to say: "We must ensure that our enemy should not get a chance to point fingers at us."

Pakistan's PM Khan says he will ask Turkish president to help 

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he will ask Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to help defuse tension between Pakistan and India.

“I am going to talk to [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, and I will request him to play his role in this connection,” Khan told a joint session of the parliament summoned after both countries claimed to have shot down each other's jets.

He said his country wants peace and this should not be considered a weakness, adding that he had attempted to contact Indian Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday to call for deescalation.

"Prime Minister Imran Khan is ready to telephone Prime Minister Modi to defuse the ongoing tensions between the two countries," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told local broadcaster Geo News.

"Is he (Modi) ready for that?" he asked.

Fighting erupts between Indian, Pakistani soldiers

Fresh fighting has erupted between Indian and Pakistani soldiers along the so-called Line of Control that divides disputed Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

India's army says Pakistani soldiers are targeting nearly two dozen Indian forward points with mortar and gunfire.

Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said Pakistani troops later Thursday attacked forward posts along the Line of Control calling it an "unprovoked" violation of the 2003 cease-fire accord. 

He said Indian soldiers were responding to the ongoing Pakistani multiple attacks along the highly militarised de-facto frontier.

Anand said shells were also landing in some civilian areas near the frontier. Police said at least two people, an off-duty soldier and a woman, were injured in the shelling.

Pakistani soldiers also attacked Indian positions overnight, the army spokesman said earlier, but described its intensity as "lesser" than previous nights.

He said no casualties involving soldiers were reported so far in fighting since Wednesday night.

Pakistan says will free Indian pilot as 'peace gesture'

Pakistan said it will release a captured Indian pilot in a "peace gesture", taking a step towards rapprochement as clashes between the nuclear-armed rivals ignited fears of a disastrous conflict.

The pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, has become the face of the crisis since he was shot down in a rare aerial engagement between the South Asian neighbours over the disputed region of Kashmir on Wednesday.

"As a peace gesture we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow," Prime Minister Imran Khan told a joint session of parliament.

Pakistan willing to return captured pilot

Qureshi said his country is prepared to return the Indian pilot shot down and captured on Wednesday, but only if it helps ease the crisis with its neighbour, India.

"We are willing to return the captured Indian pilot if it leads to de-escalation," he was quoted as saying by Pakistan media.

He added that, as a sign of the crisis easing, India had handed over its file to Pakistan on the deadly suicide bombing in India-administered Kashmir on February 14, which triggered the latest upsurge in tension.

Two sides exchange fire overnight

India and Pakistan exchanged gunfire through the night into Thursday morning in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, a day after Islamabad said it shot down two Indian warplanes and captured a pilot.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, though jet fighters roared overhead through the mountainous region as villagers along the so-called Line of Control fled to safety.

Meanwhile, members of Indian Prime Minister Modi's Bharitiya Janata Party called for more military action, suggesting the conflict still could worsen. Modi himself held a teleconference rally Thursday ahead of national elections, warning that "India's enemies are conspiring to create instability in the country through terror attacks."

Khan had called for talks between the two nuclear-armed rivals in a televised address Wednesday, saying: "Considering the nature of the weapons that both of us have, can we afford any miscalculation?"

Both Indian and Pakistani officials reported small-arms fire and shelling along the Kashmir region into on Thursday. However, Indian army spokesman Lt. Colonel Devender Anand described the intensity of the firing as "lesser" than previous nights.

Pakistan's airspace remained closed for a second day Thursday, snarling air traffic.

Schools in Pakistan-administered Kashmir also remained closed.

India demands the release of its pilot

India on Thursday demanded the release of one of its air force pilots who was in a jet shot down by Pakistan's warplanes.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by villagers in Pakistan-administered Kashmir after his MiG 21 crashed after being shot.

India's foreign ministry demanded the pilot's immediate release.

The pilot is currently in Pakistan military custody.

The international community has continued to urge restraint as the crisis between the countries intensifies. 

TRT World's Hasan Abdullah reports from Pakistan's capital Islamabad with the latest.

Wednesday, February 27 

Imran Khan offers talks with India after Kashmir clashes

Khan repeats his calls on Wednesday that he is ready to cooperate with India over the Kashmir suicide bombing investigation.

"Pakistan's plan was that there should be no casualties or damage, only to show Pakistani capability," said Khan.

He added, “we need to use wisdom and sense to resolve the dispute with India”.

Pakistan's prime minister stated that both sides can't afford miscalculation with weapons they have and urged "better sense to prevail".

US acting Pentagon chief focused on 'de-escalating tensions'

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is focused on de-escalating tensions between India and Pakistan and urged them both to avoid further military action, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, without saying if he had spoken with his counterparts from either nation.

In a statement, the Pentagon said Shanahan had spoken with senior US military officials about the situation.

"Acting Secretary Shanahan's focus is on de-escalating tensions and urging both of the nations to avoid further military action," the statement added. 

Turkey concerned

Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu has called for a de-escalation of tensions and a resolution on the Kashmir conflict. 

Cavusoglu said that he has told Pakistan that Turkey is willing to mediate between India and Pakistan. 

Turkish foreign minister added that Ankara ready to play its part to ease tension between Pakistan, India.

India says it shot down one Pakistan fighter jet

India says it lost a combat jet and the pilot was MIA while it foiled an attack by Pakistan military planes over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said Indian planes engaged with Pakistan jets and brought one of them down.

"In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG 21. The pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts," Kumar told reporters.

Pakistan has denied losing any of its planes.

Pakistan closes all airspace

Pakistan closed its airspace Wednesday, the country's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the military said, as fears spiked of an all-out conflict with nuclear-armed neighbour India.

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."

A CAA source said all airlines had been notified.

India had earlier announced it was closing several cities in India and India-administered Kashmir.

Pakistan says it captured Indian pilot

Pakistan says it captured an Indian pilot after shooting down two Indian fighter jets over Pakistan-administered Kashmir. He is in hospital for medical treatment, army spokesman said. 

Pakistan’s state media Wednesday published a video showing the pilot. It showed a blindfolded man in an Indian Air Force uniform, his face bloodied, with his hands tied behind him, as a soldier interrogates him. 

He gave his name, rank and serial number and when pressed for further information says, “I am not supposed to tell you that.” 

In a photograph, which has also been confirmed by security sources, the pilot can be seen flanked by Pakistani military personnel.

Pakistan 'does not want war' - military spokesman

Pakistan military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan does not want to escalate its crisis with India, nor does it want to go to war. He also discredited Indian media reports of Wednesday morning's incident.

"Indian media says a Pakistani F-16 was downed - but Pakistan has not used any F-16s so far, nor has any been shot down," Ghafoor said.

"Army, government and people of Pakistan have always conveyed a message of peace. Both countries have the capacity, but war is the failure of policy. Showing our will and resolve, we do not want to escalate and want to follow a path of peace. Nothing is solved through war and no conflict has ever been settled through war."

He added that the action Pakistan has taken is in "self defence."

"It is up to India now to go the way we have gone. Which is the way of peace. If they respond with aggression, we will be forced to respond," he said.

Pakistan says shoots down Indian jets

Pakistan shot down two Indian Air Force planes in its airspace in Kashmir on Wednesday, a military spokesman said, adding that one Indian pilot had been captured.

"PAF [Pakistan Air Force] shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace," tweeted military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, adding that one aircraft had fallen in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, while the other crashed in India-administered Kashmir.

An Indian air force plane crashed in India-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, according to an Indian official.

Two pilots and at least one civilian were killed here, according to an Indian official.

The official says the incident occurred after at least three Pakistan combat jets entered India-administered Kashmir airspace.

The official said Indian air force jets scrambled and intercepted the Pakistan planes, which then flew back.

TRT World spoke to General Naeem Khalid Lodhi, Pakistan's former Minister of Defence.

Contradictory claims on strikes, shelling

Pakistan's foreign ministry on Wednesday said strikes were carried out against a "non-military target" to avoid loss of life and demonstrate Pakistan's right and ability to defend itself.

"We have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if force into that paradigm," the foreign ministry said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistani police said mortar shells fired by Indian troops from across the frontier in the Himalayan region of Kashmir struck homes, killing six civilians and wounding several others.

Local police official Mohammad Altaf says six people, including children, were killed Wednesday in Kotli village in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

TRT World's Hasan Abdullah reports from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

Pakistani and Indian troops deployed in Kashmir often trade fire. The region is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety.

Indian airline Vistara said on Wednesday it had suspended flights to four cities in the region in India and India-administered Kashmir.

"Due to airspace restrictions, flights to and from Amritsar, Srinagar, Chandigarh and Jammu are currently on hold," Vistara said. 

TRT World speaks to New Delhi-based journalist Ishan Russell.

Further escalation of tensions over Kashmir

The latest civilian casualties came a day after tensions escalated sharply following a pre-dawn air strike by India that New Delhi said targeted a terrorist training camp.

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

The strikes were New Delhi's first on its neighbour's territory since the two countries went to war in 1971.

Earlier, India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said her country wants to avoid any "further escalation of the situation."

She stressed during a visit to China on Wednesday that "no military installations were targeted" in the air raid, describing the operation as a "pre-emptive strike" to prevent another attack in India by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group.

Tuesday's air raid came after India threatened retaliation over the February 14 suicide bombing, claimed by JeM, that killed 40 Indian troops in India-administered Kashmir.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies