Pakistan says it has shot down two Indian Air Force jets and captured their pilots in a major escalation of the Kashmir conflict.
India has confirmed the loss of one MiG21 fighter and said its pilot was missing in action.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called for a “responsible” approach. “The weapons they have and we have, can we afford a miscalculation?” he said.
Both India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, but control only parts of it.
The nuclear powers have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. All but one were over Kashmir.
The aerial attacks across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Indian and Pakistani territory are the first since a war in 1971.
They follow a militant attack in Kashmir which killed 40 Indian troops – the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir. A Pakistan-based group said it carried out the attack.
The BBC’s Soutik Biswas, in Delhi, says the challenge for India and Pakistan now is to contain the latest escalation before things get completely out of control.
Pakistan’s information ministry published but subsequently deleted a video purporting to show one of the Indian pilots that the Pakistani military says it has captured.
In the video, the pilot – who is blindfolded and appears to have blood on his face – identifies himself as Wing-Commander Abhinandan.
Image copyright Pakistan Information Ministry Image caption Pakistan’s information ministry tweeted a video purporting to show a captured Indian pilot
The ministry also tweeted what it said was footage of one of the downed Indian jets
In India, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar acknowledged the loss of a jet and its pilot.
He also said that an Indian plane had shot down a Pakistani fighter jet and Indian ground forces observed it falling on the Pakistani side of the LoC. Pakistan has denied any of its jets were struck.
Pakistan’s assertion that it had shot down two Indian aircraft came shortly after Islamabad said its warplanes had struck targets in Indian territory.
Pakistan said it had “taken strikes at [a] non-military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage”.
Indian authorities said the Pakistani jets had been pushed back.
In a briefing, Maj Gen Ghafoor said that Pakistan “had no alternative to respond” to Tuesday’s Indian air strikes on its territory.
He said Pakistan’s jets had “engaged” six targets in Indian territory but then carried out air strikes on “open ground” rather than hitting Indian military targets.
“We don’t want to go on the path of war,” he said.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has also said that her country will act “with responsibility and restraint”.
“India does not wish to see further escalation of the situation,” she said, speaking from a meeting with Russian and Chinese foreign ministers in China.
India said Tuesday’s air strikes on Balakot in north-western Pakistan killed a large number of militants but Pakistan said there had been no casualties.
The US, EU and China have all called for restraint.
The challenge for India and Pakistan now is to contain the escalation before things get completely out of control.
It is almost unprecedented for two nuclear-armed countries to carry out air strikes into each other’s territories.
“We are in uncharted waters,” Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the US and adviser to three Pakistani prime ministers, told me late on Tuesday.
An Indian defence analyst believes Indian security forces will now have to be prepared for a “full spectrum of conflict”.
However Daniel Markey from Johns Hopkins University in the US says we are “several steps away” from nuclear escalation.
A further escalation, he believes, will happen if Pakistan’s “next step were to raise the stakes by hitting Indian civilian targets”.
That is highly unlikely.