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Pakistan shuts airspace to commercial flights over India escalation

Pakistan and India are inching dangerously to an all-out war [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 February, 2019

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Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority says it has shut the nation's airspace to all commercial flights as tensions with India escalate.
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority says it has shut the nation's airspace to all commercial flights as tensions with India escalate, following cross border aerial battles and airstrikes over disputed Kashmir.

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 airspace for commercial flights over several cities in India and India-administered Kashmir.

Pakistan said on Wednesday it shot down two Indian warplanes in its airspace over disputed Kashmir, in a dramatic escalation of a confrontation that has ignited fears of an all-out conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

One Indian pilot was captured, a Pakistani military spokesman said, adding that one aircraft had fallen in Pakistani-held Kashmir, while the other fell on the Indian side of the heavily militarised de facto border dividing the Himalayan territory.

Indian sources confirmed Pakistani fighter jets had violated airspace over Indian Kashmir, but said they were forced back over the LoC, and there was no immediate response to the claim the planes had been shot down.

The incident is the latest in a dangerous sequence of events between the two countries, whose ties have been under intense strain since a February 14 suicide bombing in Indian Kashmir that killed 40 troops.

New Delhi had promised to act, and on Tuesday its warplanes flew 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 airstrike on Pakistani soil since the neighbours fought a war in 1971 - when neither had nuclear weapons.

Islamabad, while denying the Indian strike caused any major damage or casualties, quickly vowed to retaliate, fuelling fears of a disastrous confrontation in South Asia.

"We encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after speaking with his counterparts from both countries.

Pompeo added that he stressed to Pakistan's foreign minister "the priority of de-escalating current tensions by avoiding military action, and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil."

Agencies contributed to this report.

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