Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said on Wednesday that it had shut its entire airspace to all commercial flights after the military claimed to shoot down two Indian jets amid mounting tensions between the two nuclear rivals.
Pakistan’s military claimed earlier on Wednesday that it had shot down two Indian aircraft because they crossed onto Pakistan’s side of the disputed Kashmir region. Pakistan Air Force spokesperson Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that the air force “shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace.”
Pakistan added that it has two Indian pilots in custody. Pakistan International Airlines warned passengers in a Wednesday tweet that Pakistan’s air space closure might affect its flights.
This map from flight tracker Flightradar 24 shows an empty airspace above Pakistan on Wednesday compared to a month ago:
A spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry said that India shot down one Pakistan Air Force plane on Wednesday and that one Indian pilot is “missing in action.” He said that Pakistan claims to have the pilot in custody and that India would be “ascertaining the facts.”
Tensions between the two rival countries have mounted since a terror attack in Kashmir that left 40 Indian troops dead earlier on February 14. Both countries have ordered airstrikes against each other, the first time in history that the two powers have done so, according to Reuters.
Ground forces have exchanged fire in more than a dozen locations, Reuters also reported.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said at a press conference on Wednesday that the two countries “should sit down and talk.” He urged “better sense to prevail.”
India said on Tuesday that it had launched an airstrike on what it said was a militant training base in Pakistan, the AP reported. India claimed that its airstrikes killed as many as 300 Muslim separatist militants, but Pakistan claims its air force scrambled fighter jets and chased India off.
Pakistan immediately convened a meeting of its nuclear commanders after the attack.
Pakistan’s air force launched airstrikes into Indian-controlled part of Kashmir earlier on Wednesday, though no civilian casualities were reported, according to the AP.
A spokesperson for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter on Wednesday that the “sole purpose of this action was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self defence. We do not wish to escalate but are fully prepared if forced into that paradigm.” He used the hashtag #PakistanStrikesBack.
India and Pakistan have fought wars over the disputed Kasmir territory. Both countries claim the region, and rule parts of it.
China has urged Pakistan and India to avoid escallation. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters on Wednesday that China hopes “they will keep in mind the regional peace and stability, exercise restraint, take effective measures to strengthen dialogue, and maintain two sides’ fundamental interests and the regional peace and stability,” Reuters reported.