NEW DELHI: India, having sent its message with Tuesday's air strike, should now refrain from any escalation and tread carefully keeping all diplomatic channels open as a Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was in Pakistan's custody, former IAF officers said on Wednesday.
After an aerial engagement in Jammu and Kashmir's Nowshera sector on Wednesday, in which the IAF shot down an F-16 of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Pakistan claimed that it has captured one Indian pilot, who was identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, a MiG 21 Bison pilot.
The Indian government has acknowledged that Varthaman has been captured by the Pakistani forces and said that it expects his immediate and safe return.
"India should keep all the diplomatic channels open. The situation would not have gone this bad had there been a dialogue. These politicians think they can eradicate terrorism. Even the United States has been trying to do the same since the 9/11 attacks, but it has not been able to do so," Air Marshal (retd) Ashok Goel said.
"We need to tread very carefully and judiciously now. We don't know what kind of harm Pakistan may cause to the captured officer. There should not be an escalation from our side at least. The priority should be to get our man back," he said.
Another former Air Marshal advised India to try to get the captured officer back with both the parties having achieved their objectives.
"India achieved its aim by destroying their terror camp. Pakistan also saved its face by doing some sort of attack in which both nations lost an aircraft each. Unfortunately, one of our men was captured. We should make all efforts to retrieve our pilot," former IAF Chief P.V. Naik said.
Former Air Marshal M. Matheswaran said that while bringing back our man should be the priority, India must extort some action from Pakistan against terrorism before it fully engages in a dialogue.
"Of course, we must bring him back... But it's something that happens in an escalation. Our plane drifted into their territory and got captured... it is part of the conflict situation. We have to deal with it.
"But Pakistan needs to show some action. It needs to stop supporting the terror outfits and eliminate them," he said.
The already strained relations between India and Pakistan have been tested since Tuesday when the IAF, retaliating against the Pulwama terror attack that killed 40 CRPF troopers, bombed the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed at Balakot in Pakistan.