International pressure mounts on India and Pakistan to avert a full-blown war

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  • White House asks India and Pakistan to de-escalate military action.
  • Potential risks of further military action ‘unacceptably high’, White House says.
  • US, Britain, and France ask the United Nations to blacklist Masood Azhar and the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
  • Ceasefire violations continue along the Line of Control in Kashmir.
India and Pakistan continue to exchange fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir, even as international pressure has increased on both sides to tone down the military standoff.

“We urge both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, including through direct communication. Further military activity will exacerbate the situation,” the White House spokesperson said.

International pressure on both countries to exercise restraint and focus efforts to de-escalating the situation continued to pour in -- the UK, the US, China, and the European Union -- have all issued statements calling for a measured approach in the wake of the Wednesday air battle between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The US, along with Britain and France have also urged the UN Security Council to blacklist Masood Azhar, who heads Jaish-e-Mohammed calling for international sanctions against him that would impose a travel ban and freeze his assets.

“Cross-border terrorism, such as the recent attack on India’s CRPF on February 14, poses a grave threat to the security of the region. We reiterate our call for Pakistan to abide by its United Nations Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds,” a State Department spokesperson said.

Earlier on Wednesday, China said that it believes that Pakistan has “always been opposed” to terrorism and that both India and Pakistan should exercise restraint and avoid escalation of the situation, according to news agencies.

However, on Thursday morning, a ceasefire violation was reported in the Poonch district along the Line of Control, ANI reported. India is also reportedly building bunkers in the villages along the Line of Control - the de facto border with Pakistan -- to protect locals from fleeing in case of heavy shelling, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, the Indian government is faced with public pressure to bring back the pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, who is in Pakistani custody after his jet crashed in an air battle on Wednesday.

Pakistan has claimed it captured one Indian pilot who was later identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was flying a Mig-21, which was shot down after an aerial encounter between Pakistan and India, a first in 48 years.

A video of the pilot circulating on social media, in which the captured pilot is being attacked by an angry Pakistani mob, prompted a strong objection from India. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj called it a "vulgar display" of injured personnel and a violation of the Geneva Convention and International Humanitarian Law.

The convention calls for dignified treatment of military personnel during times of war and armed international conflict even when it is not a declared war.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs also held meetings with a Pakistani envoy in Delhi and it is understood it handed over Pakistan a dossier containing details of Jaish-e-Mohammed's involvement in the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, which killed over 40 CRPF security personnel. Jaish had claimed responsibility for the attack, the deadliest in the valley in over three decades.

Several international flights have been impacted after Pakistan closed its airspace and India shut down airports in the North West. As many as 16 international flights were cancelled as of Wednesday. Air Canada temporarily suspended its flights to India, and said a Vancouver-Delhi flight had to turn around mid-way.

India has also tightened security in major cities -- the Delhi Metro has been put on red alert while Mumbai has also beefed up security.

India’s commercial pilots have also come together offering to stand united as a ‘second line of defence’ after the Indian air force and support government efforts.

India has termed Pakistan’s violation of Indian air space an act of aggression and accused it of targeting military installations, in stark contrast to India’s ‘non-military’ air strike in Pakistan the previous day that it says targeted a terror camp.

Just hours after the air battle, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan extended an olive branch in a televised address, asking for a dialogue and warning against the dangers of an escalated conflict, while saying Pakistan had to retaliate and its action was a display of its military capabilities.

With agencies

See also:
India confirms losing a fighter jet and the pilot is still 'missing in action' after a dogfight with Pakistani forces

Markets turn nervous watching India and Pakistan ramp up military action

Flights disrupted as India-Pakistan tensions escalate
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