ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan said today it had shot down two Indian fighter jets that crossed into its territory along the disputed Kashmir border, the flashpoint between two earlier wars between these uneasy neighbors.
The downing of the jets is seen as a major escalation in the battle over Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between India and Pakistan. The attacks came as Indian helicopter gunships launched fresh rocket attacks in Kashmir on Thursday, the second day of a campaign to dislodge Pakistan-backed guerrillas from the disputed frontier.
India said it had aimed rockets at Pakistani soldiers and guerrillas entrenched in rugged, snowcapped mountains in the Indian-held part of Kashmir. Pakistan, however, denied that its troops were involved and said India's aircraft had bombed Pakistani territory.
The army said earlier that India soldiers had suffered heavy casualties and were driven back when they attacked Pakistani military outposts on the border.
"The way things are escalating now and if bombs continue to fall
inside Pakistan on our side of the line of control, we reserve the right to use our
anti-aircraft weapons," Army spokesman, Brig. Rashid Quereshi, told The Associated
"They have been repulsed and they suffered heavy casualties . . . it seems there is an effort to occupy positions on Pakistani side of the line of control," he said.
Ferocious artillery duels On Wednesday India launched airstrikes on its side of the border to flush out what it said were an estimated 600 Pakistan-sponsored militants in the rugged mountains that run like a seam along the dividing line that splits Kashmir between Pakistan and India.
India says Pakistani soldiers are among the infiltrators. Quereshi called the allegation "absolutely nonsense" and Pakistani politicians demanded that independent observers investigate.
Shortly after dawn on Thursday, Quereshi said Indian fighter jets screamed in low, weaving through the mountain peaks dropping bombs very close to the border, but inside Indian territory.
Since the Indian crackdown began on Wednesday, the artillery duels between Indian and Pakistani troops that face off along the border have been ferocious, he said. Quereshi said there have been Indian casualties.
While Indian troops say they are moving in to outflank militants, Quereshi said Pakistani soldiers fear they may be trying to annex Pakistani territory.
"Although the Indians are saying they are
trying to outflank or surround the militants in the process they came on the line of
control and that is when the Pakistani troops fired," said Quereshi. "That is
when they (Indian troops) suffered the most casualties." So far he said Pakistan has
been showing restraint.
Honoring the Lahore declaration
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz urged India to stop escalating the fighting and to honor the Lahore declaration, a document signed in February between Indian and Pakistaniprime ministers.
In that document the two uneasy neighbors and combatants in three wars in 52 years promised to try to settle their differences through negotiations.
But Quereshi warned that Pakistan's patience is
limited. "I fear that patience is going to run low after some time here," he
said. "There is a limit to the amount of restraint one can exercise ... if they
continue to escalate the way they are doing ... they will suffer very, very badly."