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The wreckage of an Indian aircraft after it crashed on Wednesday near Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Photograph: Xinhua/Barcroft Images

Indian PM accuses Pakistan of ‘evil designs’ in Kashmir crisis

Narendra Modi speaks out over air strikes and says ‘terror attacks’ are attempt to halt its progress

WT24 Desk

The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, has accused Pakistan of having “evil designs” to stunt India’s growth in his first remarks since a duel between the countries’ fighter jets led to the capture of an Indian air force pilot on Wednesday, The Guardian reports.

The dogfight in the Himalayan foothills, the first between the countries to be publicly acknowledged for 48 years, followed tit-for-tat airstrikes this week that have led to the closure of dozens of airports and put major cities on high alert across the subcontinent.

Speaking to party workers in a video conference on Thursday, Modi did not respond to an offer of dialogue from his Pakistani counterpart, Imran Khan, leaving open the possibility of further escalation between the two nuclear-equipped armies.

“The enemy tries to destabilise us, carries out terror attacks,” Modi said. “Their motive is to stop our growth. Today, all countrymen are standing like a rock to counter their evil designs.”

Wednesday’s clashes over the heavily militarised “line of control” that divides Indian and Pakistani-held Kashmir sparked calls for restraint from countries including the US, China, Russia and the UK.

The US president, Donald Trump, who was addressing a press conference in Hanoi at the same time Modi was speaking, hinted that diplomatic efforts had begun behind the scenes.

“They have been going at it and we have been involved,” Trump said. “We have some reasonably decent news, hopefully it’s going to be coming to an end, this has been going on for a long time, decades and decades.”

Leave was cancelled for health workers and police in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and emergency orders were issued in Karachi, while train stations in Delhi were placed on “red alert” as both countries prepared for the possibility of more military attacks.

Pakistani jets struck sites in Indian-controlled territory on Wednesday and shot down one of the Indian planes that scrambled in response, capturing the pilot. Videos of the detainee, identified as Abhi Nandan, showed him being interrogated in a bloodied uniform then being beaten by villagers near the crash site. Both were widely shared on WhatsApp and social media.

By late evening, in a video that appeared to be aimed at calming public anger in India, the pilot was shown drinking tea and praising the way he was being treated by his captors, who he said were “thorough gentlemen”.Quick guide

A report in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper on Thursday quoted witnesses who said Nandan had fought off angry villagers with a pistol at the crash site and had tried to swallow and destroy maps and documents in his possession before he was taken into Pakistani custody.

India has rallied France, the UK and the US behind a fresh proposal to have the UN security council add Masood Azhar, the head of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), to a terrorist watchlist.

JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kashmir on 14 February that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and triggered the current crisis. India responded to the attack on Tuesday by striking what it claims was a JeM training camp in Pakistan.

China has repeatedly blocked previous efforts to list Azhar as a terrorist, a move that would put pressure on its ally Pakistan to arrest the militant leader, who operates freely on its soil.

Delhi accuses Islamabad of nurturing and assisting militant groups as a form of asymmetrical warfare against India, its larger and more powerful neighbour.

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