Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday claimed that Indian pilots were detained after two MIGs were shot down, as he cautioned against any "miscalculation" in case of an escalation between the two nuclear-armed countries and offered to defuse tensions through talks. However, it appeared that Khan has accepted that there were casualties on the Pakistan side in the airstrikes carried by the Indian Air Force’s Mirage 2000 jets on terror camps in Balakot on early Tuesday morning.
While addressing the nation which was telecast live, Khan said: "When India stuck yesterday morning, the army chief and I spoke. We did not respond in haste — we did not have a complete assessment of the damage cause and it would have been irresponsible on our part as it may have resulted in casualties on their side. Once we assessed the damage caused, we were ready to take action.
"The sole purpose of our action was to convey that if you can come into our country, we can do the same. That was the only purpose of what we did," he said.
His comments came minutes after the External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi said that Pakistan Air Force targeted military installations in India in response to Indian counter-terrorism operations but their attempts were foiled successfully though one Indian pilot is "missing in action".
However, the Pakistan Army later said that "only one" Indian pilot was under their custody, retracting from its earlier statement that two IAF pilots were captured.
In his address, Khan said all wars have been started on miscalculations on the time and the human cost of war. This was the same with the World War I, with the World War II and the war on terror, he added.
He said no one knows where the wars lead to. Khan said that better sense must prevail and the two sides should act with wisdom.
"I ask India: with the weapons (nuclear) you have and the weapons (nuclear) we have, can we really afford a miscalculation? If this (situation) escalates, it will no longer be in my control or in (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi's," Khan said.
"Let's sit together and settle this with talks," he added.
"We know how the families of those killed in Pulwama incident must have felt. We have been the victims of war for decades...Since the beginning we have asked India to share actionable evidence with us. It is nowhere in the interest of Pakistan for it to be used as a base for militancy," he said.
"But I had a hunch that India would escalate, and that is why I had said that if India escalates, we will retaliate," he said, adding that Pakistan simply wanted to show its capability.
(With PTI inputs)