Pakistan says 2 Indian warplanes downed, 1 pilot captured
By ROSHAN MUGHAL and AIJAZ HUSSAIN
Wednesday, February 27
MUZAFARABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s military said Wednesday it shot down two Indian warplanes in the disputed region of Kashmir and captured a pilot, raising tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals to a level unseen in the last two decades.
India acknowledged one of its air force planes was “lost” in skirmishes with Pakistan and that its pilot was “missing in action” on a chaotic day, which also saw mortar shells fired by Indian troops from across the frontier dividing the two sectors of Kashmir kill six civilians and wound several others. A helicopter crash in the region also killed six Indian air force officials and a civilian on the ground.
Pakistan responded by shutting down its civilian airspace as Prime Minister Imran Khan called for negotiations with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, to ensure “better sense can prevail.”
“Let’s sit together to talk to find a solution,” Khan said. There was no immediate reaction from Modi.
The aircraft went down Wednesday morning in Kashmir, a mountainous region claimed by both India and Pakistan since almost immediately after their creation in 1947. One of the downed planes crashed in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir while the other went down in Indian-controlled section of the Himalayan region, Pakistan’s army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said.
Pakistani troops on the ground captured an Indian pilot, he later said, after earlier saying it captured two. He did not explain what caused the confusion.
The pilot was injured and was being treated at a military hospital, Ghafoor said. He did not elaborate beyond saying the pilots were being “treated well” and made no mention of them being returned to India.
“We have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm,” he added.
India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said one of its MiG-21 fighter aircraft was missing. He said India was still “ascertaining” whether its pilot was in Pakistan’s custody. He said one Pakistani aircraft was shot down, something Pakistan denied.
Meanwhile, Indian police said officials recovered seven bodies from the wreckage of an Indian Air Force chopper that crashed in Indian-controlled sector of Kashmir, which included six Indian airmen and a civilian on the ground. They gave no cause for the crash.
Senior police officer Munir Ahmed Khan said the chopper crashed close to an airport on Wednesday in Budgam area, in the outskirts of the region’s main city of Srinagar. The Srinagar airport, which has been shut along with two other airports for civilian flights in the region, is also an air force station.
Eyewitnesses said soldiers fired in air to keep residents away from the crash site.
Hours later, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said it shut Pakistani airspace to all commercial flights on Wednesday, without elaborating or indicating when the flights might resume. It was not clear if the shutdown applied to commercial overflights, though aviation authorities in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates stopped all flights to Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad said the country’s air force was carrying out airstrikes Wednesday from within Pakistani airspace across the disputed Kashmir boundary but that this was not in “retaliation to continued Indian belligerence.”
Ghafoor, the Pakistani military spokesman, said the strikes were aimed at “avoiding human loss and collateral damage.”
The shelling earlier Wednesday by India hit the village of Kotli in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, killing six people, including children, local police official Mohammad Altaf said.
Kashmir is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety. Though Pakistani and Indian troops in Kashmir often trade fire, the latest casualties came a day after tensions escalated sharply following a pre-dawn airstrike and incursion by India that New Delhi said targeted a terrorist training camp in northwestern Pakistan.
Tuesday’s pre-dawn strike by India was its first inside of Pakistan since the two nations’ 1971 war over territory that later became Bangladesh. Pakistan had said that Indian warplanes dropped bombs near the Pakistani town of Balakot but there were no casualties.
The violence Wednesday marked the most-serious escalation of the long-simmering conflict since 1999, when Pakistan’s military sent a ground force into Indian-controlled Kashmir at Kargil. That year also saw an Indian fighter jet shoot down a Pakistani naval aircraft, killing all 16 on board.
Residents on both sides of the de-facto frontier, the so-called Line of Control, said there were exchanges of fire between the two sides through the night into Wednesday morning. Hundreds of villagers fled border towns in both India and Pakistan.
In New Delhi, Indian officials said Wednesday at least five of their soldiers were wounded in firing by Pakistani troops along the volatile frontier.
Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said Pakistani soldiers targeted dozens of Indian military positions across the Line of Control throughout the night. An Indian military statement said that “out of anger and frustration,” Pakistan “initiated unprovoked cease-fire violation.”
The statement said Indian troops “retaliated for effect” and claimed to have destroyed five Pakistani posts. It accused Pakistani soldiers of firing mortars and missiles “from civilian houses, using villagers as human shields.”
On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told state-run Pakistan Television he was in touch with his counterparts across the world about the “Indian aggression,” adding that New Delhi had endangered peace in the region by Tuesday’s airstrike on Pakistan.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Wednesday her country does not wish to see further escalation of the situation with Pakistan and that it will continue to act with responsibility and restraint.
She said the limited objective of India’s pre-emptive strike inside Pakistan on a terrorist training camp Tuesday was to act decisively against the terrorist infrastructure of Jaish-e-Mohammad group, to pre-empt another terror attack in India.
The latest wave of tensions between Pakistan and India first erupted after the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 suicide bombing of a convoy of India’s paramilitary forces in the Indian portion of Kashmir that killed over 40 Indian troops.
Pakistan has said it was not involved in the attack and was ready to help New Delhi in the investigations. India long has accused Pakistan of cultivating such militant groups to attack it.
Hussain reported from Srinagar, India. Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma in New Delhi, India, Kathy Gannon and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.
Q&A: What’s at stake as India-Pakistan tensions rise?
By KATHY GANNON
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan face their worst tension in years over the disputed region of Kashmir, with Islamabad saying they shot down two Indian warplanes Wednesday and captured two pilots. Pakistan immediately shut down its civilian airspace in response.
But how did the relations between these two Asian nations become so bad and what’s at stake in this rapidly worsening conflict that both sides say they want to deescalate?
WHAT STARTED THIS LATEST TENSION?
On Feb. 14, a suicide car bomber attacked a paramilitary convoy on the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir in the Himalayas, killing more than 40 troops. The militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack. The suicide bomber was from Indian Kashmir. New Delhi long has accused Pakistan of cultivating such groups, something denied by Islamabad. India launched an airstrike on Pakistani territory early Tuesday that New Delhi called a pre-emptive strike against militant camps in Pakistan. India said its bombs killed a “very large number” of militants, while Pakistan said there were no casualties in an airstrike it described as being carried out “in haste.”
WHY IS THIS TENSION SO DANGEROUS?
Both India and Pakistan are believed to possess more than 100 nuclear warheads each and have conducted atomic weapon tests. Both countries have test-fired nuclear-capable missiles. Pakistan also has refused to renounce a first-strike option with its atomic bombs should it feel outgunned in a conventional war. It takes less than four minutes for a missile fired from Pakistan to reach India. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists warns that “computer models have predicted that the physical impacts of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, or even a single strike on a large city, would be devastating and would reverberate throughout the world.”
HOW DID THE DISPUTE OVER KASHMIR BEGIN?
When Britain granted independence to the region in 1947, it divided the Indian subcontinent into a predominantly Hindu India and mostly Muslim Pakistan. Some areas could decide their own fate. In Kashmir, the only Muslim majority area ruled by a Hindu monarch, its ruler decided against giving the population a choice. That started the first India-Pakistan war in 1947. The conflict ended in 1949 when a United Nations resolution established the Line of Control dividing Kashmir between the two nations and calling for a direct vote on which country should control it. That vote has never been held. Indian and Pakistan fought a second war over Kashmir in 1965.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SINCE?
India and Pakistan fought a third war in 1971 over what was East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh. In 1999 and 2000, after Pakistan’s military sent a ground force into Indian-controlled Kashmir at Kargil, the two countries faced off and a worried world urged both to pull back from the brink of war, fearing it could escalate into a nuclear conflict. Even in times of relative peace the two nations readily engage in brinkmanship and aggressive rhetoric.
HOW DO THE MILITARY OF INDIA AND PAKISTAN COMPARE?
India, home to 1.3 billion people, has a conventional army of about 1.4 million soldiers. Pakistan, with a population of over 200 million people, has about 650,000 troops. Both countries have spent billions over the years developing conventional arms. Last year, Pakistan spent about $11 billion or about 3.6 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. India meanwhile allocated about $58 billion, or 2.1 percent of its GDP on defense, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. India’s ballooning military spending has propelled it to the world’s fifth-biggest defense spender, surpassing the United Kingdom, according to the IISS.
HOW IS PAKISTAN REACTING?
Pakistan, which has a history of military coups and strong-arm rule from those tied to its intelligence services, has largely reacted to this conflict through its civilian government. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi took the lead to condemn the airstrike Tuesday, painting India as an aggressor who would suffer repercussions, without elaborating. Qureshi also accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of playing with regional stability to get votes in upcoming national elections. Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for a joint meeting of Pakistan’s upper and lower houses of parliament. Public criticism of India has been loud across Pakistani media, with sporadic protests against New Delhi breaking out across the country.
HOW IS INDIA REACTING?
Indian government officials called the airstrike Tuesday a counter terrorism operation based on credible intelligence that another attack against India was imminent. The tensions could be a boon for Modi, whose Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party aims to maintain power in the upcoming elections. The airstrike appears to have temporarily insulated the Modi government from criticism about it failing to create as many jobs as pledged in the 2014 elections. Opposition party leaders have responded with support for India’s air force. Meanwhile, Modi earned points with the powerful Hindu nationalist social group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said Tuesday: “Truth and non-violence are fine, but the world understands the language of power.”
Associated Press writer Emily Schmall in New Delhi contributed to this report.
Venezuela crisis: Trump threats to Maduro evoke bloody history of US intervention in Latin America
February 25, 2019
Author: Joseph J. Gonzalez, Associate Professor, Global Studies, Appalachian State University
Disclosure statement: Joseph J. Gonzalez does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Violence erupted at the Venezuela-Colombia border over the delivery of humanitarian aid to Venezuela, killing four people and injuring 24 on Feb. 22.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro that his “days are numbered,” and Trump officials reiterated that the U.S. is considering all options, including military action, to address Venezuela’s crisis.
Almost 80 percent of Venezuelans disapprove of Maduro, who was reinaugurated for a second six-year term in January after an election widely seen as fraudulent. Since taking power in 2013, he has led Venezuela into a deep economic crisis.
In late January, opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared Maduro a “usurper” and swore himself in as the country’s rightful president. More than 50 countries – including the United States, Europe and most of Latin America – want to replace Maduro’s regime with a Guaidó-led government.
Despite near global condemnation of Maduro, any U.S. intervention in Venezuela would be controversial. The United States’ long history of interfering in Latin American politics suggests that its military operations generally usher in dictatorship and civil war – not democracy.
The Cuban-US Cold War
Cuba, the focus of my history research, is a prime example of this pattern.
U.S.-Cuban relations have never recovered from President William McKinley’s intervention in Cuba’s war for independence over a century ago.
Before waging what in the U.S. is known as the Spanish-American War in 1898, McKinley promised that “the people of the island of Cuba” would be “free and independent” from Spain and that his government had no “intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over said Island.”
In the end, however, Cuba’s independence from Spain meant domination by the United States.
For 60 years after the Spanish-American War, the White House made repeated military and diplomatic interventions in Cuba, supporting politicians who protected U.S. economic interests in sugar, utilities, banks or tourism and who backed American foreign policy in the Caribbean.
By 1952, when the U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista overthrew President Carlos Prío Socarrás, Cuba’s government had effectively become protectors of American businesses, according to my research. Batista had a warm relationship with both Washington, D.C. and the American organized crime groups that used to control Havana’s tourist industry.
A communist revolution led by Fidel Castro overthrew Batista’s military junta in 1959. Castro decried the “imperialist government of the United States” for turning Cuba into an “American colony.”
The Kennedy administration’s trade embargo against Cuba and the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion – in which the U.S. military trained Cuban dissidents in an attempt to unseat Castro – only pushed Cuba further into the orbit of Soviet Russia.
For the past six decades, the U.S. and Cuba have remained locked in a Cold War, with a brief thaw under President Barack Obama.
Fearing that communism would spread across the hemisphere, the U.S. government repeatedly interfered in the politics of Latin American nations during the Cold War.
In 1954 the CIA worked with elements of the Guatemalan military to overthrow elected President Jacobo Árbenz, whom U.S. policymakers considered dangerously left-wing. Decades of dictatorship and civil war followed, killing an estimated 200,000 people.
A peace agreement in 1996 restored democracy, but Guatemala has yet to recover economically, politically or psychologically from the bloodshed.
Then there is Chile’s U.S.-supported coup d’etat. In 1973, the U.S. government covertly assisted right-wing elements of the Chilean military in overthrowing the socialist president Salvador Allende.
General Augusto Pinochet took power with the quiet financial and political support of the United States. His dictatorship, which lasted until 1990, killed tens of thousands of Chileans.
The Dominican Republic and Panama
U.S. intervention in Latin America did not start or end with the Cold War.
During World War I, the United States was concerned that Germany could use the Dominican Republic as a base of military operations. So American troops occupied the Caribbean island from 1916 to 1924.
Though the American-led administration improved the finances and infrastructure of the Dominican Republic, it also created the national guard that helped to propel Gen. Rafael Trujillo into power. His 30-year reign was savage.
President George H. W. Bush’s 1989 invasion of Panama is the rare exception when U.S. intervention in Latin American affairs actually created stability.
Most Panamanians appear to have supported the 1989 U.S. military operation to remove the corrupt and brutal military strongman Manuel Noriega.
In the years since, Panama has enjoyed comparatively peaceful elections and transfers of power.
Anti-Americanism in Latin America
On balance, though, U.S. military operations in Latin America have rarely brought democracy.
But they have created strong anti-American sentiment in the region, which leftist leaders from Fidel Castro to Hugo Chávez have adeptly harnessed to vilify their political opponents as mere U.S. puppets.
Support for the U.S. government is lower now than it has been in decades. Just 35 percent of Argentines, 39 percent of Chileans and 45 percent of Venezuelans view the U.S. favorably, according to the Pew Research Center.
President Maduro, too, has used anti-imperialist rhetoric. He denounces U.S. sanctions and other efforts to isolate his regime as a “gringo plot.”
A safer way to restore democracy
This history explains why a U.S. intervention in Venezuela would be viewed with skepticism. Though Maduro is unpopular, 65 percent of Venezuelans oppose any foreign military operation to remove Maduro, according to recent polling.
Rather than plan yet another coup d’etat, I believe U.S. efforts in Venezuela should support the work of the Lima Group, a coalition of 12 Latin American countries, including Mexico, Guatemala and Brazil, plus Canada.
The Lima Group has ruled out military force in Venezuela. Its pressure campaign to force him out peacefully has included diplomatically isolating his regime and asking Venezuela’s soldiers to pledge loyalty to Guaidó.
A negotiated settlement leading to Maduro’s voluntary departure from office is their ultimate goal.
Regional diplomacy is much slower than foreign intervention. But it avoids further bloodshed and reduces the role of anti-Americanism in Venezuela’s crisis.
It may also open a new chapter in the history of U.S.-Latin American relations – one in which the U.S. takes its lead from the region, and not the other way around.
Iran’s president rejects resignation of his foreign minister
By NASSER KARIMI
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president rejected the resignation of his foreign minister on Wednesday, throwing his full support behind the diplomat who negotiated the country’s nuclear deal with world powers as both men face growing pressure from hard-liners as the accord unravels under American pressure.
President Hassan Rouhani earlier gave a speech praising Mohammad Javad Zarif after the foreign minister’s sudden resignation shocked the Islamic Republic late on Monday night. His rejection of the resignation, reported by the state-run IRNA news agency, continued that praise.
“Since I consider you in the front line of resistance against broad pressures by the U.S., I consider acceptance of your resignation against the expedience of the country and I do not agree with it,” Rouhani reportedly told Zarif.
Zarif responded the same way he offered his shock resignation: Via Instagram.
“I hope that the Foreign Ministry, with coordination of all and supervision of the supreme leader and the president, will be able to carry out its responsibilities rigorously in the framework of constitution, law and general policies of the system,” Zarif wrote in a caption overlaid on a waving Iranian flag. He later was shown on state television at an event with visiting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, signaling his return to work.
It remains unclear what sparked Zarif’s resignation. However, it came after Zarif was not present for a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday. Assad was warmly received by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard.
The Guard’s website later quoted Soleimani as offering his support to the foreign minister.
“Definitely, Zarif is in charge of foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran and he has been always supported by top officials including the supreme leader,” Soleimani reportedly said.
Analysts say Rouhani faces growing political pressure from hard-liners within the government as the nuclear deal unravels. Iranian presidents typically see their popularity erode during their second four-year term, but analysts say Rouhani is particularly vulnerable because of the economic crisis assailing the rial, which has hurt ordinary Iranians and emboldened critics to openly call for his ouster.
The son of a wealthy family, Zarif overcame hard-line objections and Western suspicions to strike the accord with world powers that saw Iran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
But the deal was later challenged by the administration of President Donald Trump, which pulled America out of the accord. In doing so, Trump also fueled Iranian suspicions about U.S. intentions dating back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Zarif had faced withering criticism at home after he shook hands with President Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long a critic of Iran, welcomed his departure.
“Zarif is gone, good riddance. As long as I am here Iran will not get nuclear weapons,” he wrote in Hebrew on Twitter. Iran has always said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and U.N. inspectors say it is still complying with the 2015 nuclear accord.
Rouhani cited that Israeli response in his support of Zarif.
“The happiness and rejoicing of the real enemies of the people such as the Zionist regime over your resignation is the best indication of success of Mohammad Javad Zarif and the biggest reason for continuation of your activity in the post of foreign minister,” Rouhani said.