Pakistan seeks U.N. help in Kashmir dispute
India loses two jets in disputed territory
May 27, 1999
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan requested U.N. mediation in Kashmir on Thursday as India's offensive against Muslim rebels in the divided Himalayan territory threatened to escalate tensions between the neighboring nuclear powers.
A Pakistan army spokesman told a news conference that Pakistan had shot down two planes -- an Indian MiG-27 and a MiG-21 jet -- that were flying about six kilometers (four miles) inside Pakistani territory in northern Kashmir Thursday morning.
He said one pilot was captured alive but the other one died in the crash.
In a conflicting account, India said both aircraft were inside Indian territory, and Pakistan shot down only one of them. The second was lost to a mechanical failure, Air Force Vice Marshal S.K. Malik said.
"This act has been a hostile act and a provocative act," Malik said. "It is quite clear the other side has escalated this particular incident."
In Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, Information Minister Mushahid Hussein said, "We certainly want to defuse the tension, and we hope that India, which started this whole thing, will stop in the interest of peace."
Hussein said India "grossly violated our territorial space."
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, both of which claim the entire territory. The mountainous region already has been the flash point for two Indo-Pakistani wars since 1947.
Each side blames the other for the current conflict: India accuses Pakistan of supporting the Muslim rebels in Kashmir, even accusing Pakistani regulars of fighting alongside the rebels -- an accusation Pakistan denies.
Pakistan said Wednesday the Indian offensive is a pretext for seizing ground on its side of the cease-fire line.
The renewed fighting between the countries has raised concerns worldwide, because both of them tested nuclear weapons a year ago and have tested missiles capable of delivering them.
The new crisis began Wednesday, when India unleashed its air force against the Kashmir rebels.
India has struggled to put down the revolt in the largely Muslim territory since 1990. Indian Maj. Gen. J.J. Singh said the rebels are now having trouble standing their ground in the difficult mountain terrain.
"They have suffered heavy casualties due to our ground actions, artillery shelling and effective airstrikes," he said. "They have wounded people who need medical help, and in this situation, there's a very remote chance of them getting it."
The airstrikes followed two weeks of artillery duels between Indian and Pakistani troops across the U.N. cease-fire line that divides Kashmir. Both sides say hundreds of troops have been killed in the fighting, and thousands of people have fled.
Pakistan responded to the new push by putting its army on full alert and urging the United Nations to reinforce its military observers in the region. The stock markets of both countries fell sharply in response to the crisis.
India says the separatists took advantage of the melting snow to occupy positions Indian troops were forced to leave last winter. Analysts predict that India's airstrikes will be followed up with ground troops.
Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said Pakistan's tough response to the Indian offensive was unexpected. He said the rough terrain and the lack of any permanent military posts in the area -- on either side of the cease-fire line -- made it difficult to gather intelligence.
"It's a point where Pakistan has taken the initiative which one did not expect it to take," Fernandes said.
India has now imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on parts of its border with Pakistan, and some observers fear India may retaliate vigorously to Thursday's attack on its aircraft.
"It has looked upon this as an act of aggression, and it is likely to respond, which might be a very serious response," defense analyst Rahul Bedi said.
New Delhi Bureau Chief Satinder Bindra andReuters contributed to this report.
The Government of Pakistan
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