Canada ‘gravely concerned’ about India-Pakistan tension: Freeland

Ryan Flanagan, CTVNews.caPublished Wednesday, February 27, 2019 10:56AM ESTLast Updated Wednesday, February 27, 2019 2:34PM EST

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is urging India and Pakistan to “exercise maximum restraint” as tensions over the disputed Kashmir region mount.

Freeland issued a statement Wednesday afternoon calling on both countries to “avoid any further military escalation” following Pakistan’s shooting down of two Indian military aircraft in response to Indian airstrikes.

“Canada is gravely concerned about rising tensions between India and Pakistan,” Freeland said.

“Dialogue … is needed to identify a durable diplomatic solution and maintain peace and security in the region.”

Pakistan’s military said Wednesday that it had shot down two Indian planes in its airspace and taken one pilot into custody. The attack came one day after Indian fighter jets conducted an airstrike in Pakistan.

Hostilities between the two countries have been increasing since a suicide attack in Kashmir killed more than 40 Indian soldiers earlier this month. India’s airstrikes this week represented the country’s first attack inside Pakistan since 1971.

Kashmir is a mountainous region on the border of India and Pakistan, both of which have claimed ownership of it for decades.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called Wednesday for peace talks between the two nations.

The Indian government’s response to Wednesday’s developments has been to say that one of its planes was “lost” with its pilot “missing in action.” India has also claimed that it shot down an aircraft from Pakistan, which Pakistan has denied.

Air Canada suspends flights

The escalating hostilities have also affected travel around the Indian subcontinent.

Pakistan announced Wednesday that it had closed its airspace to commercial traffic, making it difficult for flights from the West to get to India.

An Air Canada spokesperson confirmed to CTV News that one flight from Toronto to Delhi had been directed to return to Canada, while a flight from Vancouver to Delhi had cancelled.

Online flight trackers showed that the flight from Toronto had been near the Norway-Sweden border when it turned around and returned to North America.

The spokesperson said Air Canada would resume service to India “once the situation normalizes and we determine it is safe to do so.”

In addition to the daily flights to Delhi, Air Canada runs four flights a week from Toronto to Mumbai.

The airline said later in the day that Wednesday night’s flight to Mumbai would proceed on an altered route. No decisions had been made about the next departures to Delhi.

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