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India And Pakistan Are At Odds Again Over Kashmir


While President Trump negotiates over North Korea's nuclear weapons today, two other nuclear powers have been shooting at each other. We heard yesterday of an Indian air raid into Pakistani territory. Today Pakistan says it shot down two Indian aircraft inside its airspace. Pakistan adds that its forces captured an Indian pilot. NPR's Lauren Frayer has been covering this story from Assam in northern India.

Hi, Lauren.


INSKEEP: There have been conflicting stories here, but what have the Pakistanis say they did?

FRAYER: So Pakistan says it shot down two Indian aircraft that entered its airspace, though it says they fell out of the sky on opposite sides of the Line of Control. That's the de facto border between the Indian and Pakistani area areas of Kashmir. Kashmir is a divided territory in the Himalayas that these countries have been fighting over for an awfully long time. Pakistan says it captured one of the Indian pilots. Now, initially it said it captured two pilots, and now it's corrected that and said it has one pilot in custody. And the Pakistani military spokesman actually tweeted a picture of him.

INSKEEP: OK. So we have that evidence of someone in custody. What is India saying about all this?

FRAYER: Well, India has a very different story. India says it was Pakistani planes that entered Indian airspace. It says India scrambled planes to respond and shot down a Pakistani plane. Now, the Indian government spokesman confirmed that India lost one of its fighter planes in this engagement, he called it, and he did confirm that one Indian pilot is missing in action. And we've also just heard that India has now summoned Pakistan's high commissioner in Delhi. That's the equivalent of an ambassador summoned into a government meeting.

INSKEEP: Isn't there also a video of this pilot that's been circulating?

FRAYER: Dramatic video - and we can't verify this video, but both Pakistani and Indian media are showing this. It shows a man who says he is an Indian pilot in Pakistani custody. He says his name and his service number aloud. The video then zooms in to an Indian air force logo on his jacket. He's speaking in English to his captors. He's actually very polite. He calls them sir. His face is bloodied. He's blindfolded. As I said, we can't verify this, but it is circulating widely in both countries.

INSKEEP: Lauren, I think a lot of Americans have been waking up the last couple of mornings startled to find Indians and Pakistanis shooting at each other, which is fair enough. We've got a lot going on here. But how did events escalate to this point over the last few weeks?

FRAYER: Right. So these are neighbors who have always been rivals, but the tensions really escalated two weeks ago with a suicide car bomb that killed 40 Indian troops on the Indian side of Kashmir. A Pakistan-based militant group claimed responsibility. And India was really, really angry. And yesterday it retaliated. It says it conducted airstrikes on a militant training camp inside Pakistani-controlled territory and killed many, a very large number, it said, of fighters there. Pakistan denied any damage or casualties, although it did acknowledge that Indian fighter jets entered its airspace. And so today we've got Pakistan responding, saying it's shot down Indian planes.

INSKEEP: And how does this bombing and then the military action that has followed fit into the broader decades-long fight over this province of Kashmir?

FRAYER: Right. So Kashmir is in the Himalayas. It's a beautiful valley. I was actually just there a couple weeks ago. You can really see why they fight over it. The conflict there goes all the way back to the founding of India and Pakistan, when they got independence from Britain in 1947. At partition, Pakistan was carved out of the Muslim majority areas of India, and the one exception was Kashmir. Kashmir is a Muslim-majority area, but the local ruler at the time was a Hindu who decided to join India. And so the two countries have fought over this region of Kashmir pretty much ever since. They've fought three wars, in recent decades, over Kashmir.

INSKEEP: And 72 years later, still a matter for live fire between India and Pakistan. Lauren, thanks so much.

FRAYER: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Lauren Frayer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.