NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An air strike by Indian warplanes inside Pakistan last week, and a subsequent retaliatory attack by the Pakistani air force, pushed the nuclear-armed neighbors to the brink of another war, but also triggered a fight over the truth about events.
Below is a look at claims and counter claims from both sides. They disagree on most aspects.
The escalation in tension came after a suicide car bombing killed 40 paramilitary troops in Pulwama in Indian-administered Kashmir, a mountainous region also claimed by Pakistan, on Feb. 14.
India blames Pakistan for the attack, which was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and says it has provided Pakistan with proof.
India’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Feb. 27 that a dossier was handed over to Pakistan with “specific details of JeM complicity in Pulwama terror attack and the presence of JeM terror camps and its leadership in Pakistan”.
Pakistan has denied the accusation, saying it had nothing to do with the Pulwama bombing, which came right before a high-profile visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Islamabad on Feb. 17.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan told parliament on Feb. 28: “We had such an important visit of the Saudi crown prince coming up. We knew that they would invest, there were contracts. Which country would sabotage such an important event by conducting a terror attack?”
India said its warplanes struck a JeM training camp near the Pakistani town of Balakot in the early hours of Feb. 26, acting on intelligence that the militant group was planning another suicide attack.
“In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated,” India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in a briefing after the air strike. Fidayeen is a term used to describe Islamist militants willing to fight to the death.
Pakistan acknowledged that Indian jets had crossed into its territory, but denied they had hit anything substantial. Under forced hasty withdrawal, Indian aircraft “released payload which had free fall in open area. No infrastructure got hit, no casualties”, the Pakistan military spokesman, Major General Asif Ghafoor, said in a tweet.
In New Delhi, a senior government official told reporters that at least 300 militants had been killed, although India’s defense forces have since said they are unable to provide any detail on the number of casualties.
“We hit our target,” the chief of the Indian air force (IAF), B.S. Dhanoa, said on Monday. “The air force doesn’t calculate casualty numbers, the government does that.”
On Feb. 27, Pakistan said its air force had locked on to six targets in Indian-administered Kashmir in retaliation for the Indian air strikes the day before. It said it did this to show it could strike key targets but said its pilots deliberately dropped their bombs in open country without causing damage. It said its aircraft did not enter Indian airspace.
Pakistan said it had downed two Indian jets, one of which came down in Pakistani-held territory and the other on the Indian side of the border. It said it had captured two Indian air force pilots. Later, it clarified to say it had only one Indian pilot in its custody. He was later handed over to India.
India said it had detected a “large package” of Pakistan air force jets coming towards Indian territory, and sent up its own fighter aircraft to intercept them.
In the ensuing engagement, India lost a MiG-21 Bison, the IAF said, adding it also shot down a U.S.-built F-16 jet. India denies that it lost a second jet.
On Feb. 28, Indian defense officials displayed what they said were parts of an AMRAAM air-to-air missile that is carried only on the F-16s in the Pakistani air force.
India’s foreign ministry said that there was a “violation of the Indian air space by Pakistan air force and targeting of Indian military posts”.
Pakistan’s military has denied it used F-16s in the attack on India and says it has not lost any of its aircraft.
In the past week, India and Pakistan have accused each other of regularly violating a ceasefire agreement along the 740-km (460-mile) Line of Control (LoC), which serves as a de-facto border between the two countries in the disputed Kashmir region.
For example, last Thursday, India said Pakistan had begun firing on at least three occasions, violating the ceasefire, killing one civilian on the Indian side.
Pakistani authorities said the ceasefire violations were by India, and four civilians had been killed in Pakistan in what they called a “deliberate” attack by Indian forces.
Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Additional reporting by James Mackenzie in ISLAMABAD; Edited by Martin Howell, Robert Birsel