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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

India, Pakistan Urge Restraint

NEW DELHI, India -- India said its military held back after Pakistani troops fired a missile at Indian aircraft flying near the border, and urged Pakistan to show similar restraint in the latest confrontation between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Tensions rose between the neighbors after Indian fighter jets shot down a Pakistani military aircraft Tuesday, killing all 16 crew members. On Wednesday, Pakistan fired a surface-to-air missile that sailed short of Indian military helicopters flying journalists to the crash site.

India lodged a protest against the missile firing late Thursday. Responding to fears that tit-for-tat attacks could escalate out of control, it pressed Pakistan to "exercise due restraint."

India insists that it shot down the plane Tuesday because it veered inside Indian territory, violating a 1991 agreement that requires combat aircraft to stay 10 kilometers away from the border.

"We want a dialogue with Pakistan, but these kinds of provocations are not conducive to the normalization of relations," Foreign Office spokesman Raminder Jassal said.

The United States called on both sides "to avoid further loss of life and further escalation and heightening of tensions," State Department spokesman James Rubin said.

The UN Security Council also urged India and Pakistan "to settle the problem through bilateral consultations."

The prospects for talks diminished further Thursday, as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif described India's downing of a Pakistani military plane Tuesday as a "cowardly, barbaric act" that will "complicate the peace process."

Speaking at the funeral ceremony in Karachi for the 16 Pakistanis who were killed when the naval reconnaissance plane was shot down, Sharif described the incident as "military aggression" and declared that Pakistan "will do everything to safeguard our sovereignty and national interests."

"This is a very serious violation of all principles, all international laws and agreements," he said.

In an interview in Islamabad, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz criticized India for violating the 1991 agreement as well.

Addressing whether the Pakistani aircraft violated Indian airspace, Aziz said, "Suppose it did. ... How can a propeller plane like this threaten a jet?"

He said Pakistan "would certainly not like to initiate any [incidents] and we hope India won't."

India said the Pakistani naval reconnaissance plane flew into its territory and returned to Pakistan after it was hit. Most of the wreckage was found inside Pakistani, but parts of the plane were scattered along the border, India said.

Pakistan accused India of stealing pieces of the wreckage. "It was such a cruel attempt to prove the Indian viewpoint," Aziz said. He said the plane was nearly two kilometers inside Pakistan when it was attacked.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars during the last 50 years and came close to a fourth war during an 11-week-long conflict in Kashmir earlier this year after hundreds of Pakistan-based Islamic guerrillas occupied Himalayan peaks along the frontier. India said the fighters were mostly Pakistani army regulars, a charge Pakistan denied.

At the funeral prayers for the dead naval aviators, Sharif looked moved as he and other top military officials embraced sobbing friends and relatives of the casualties. Their 16 caskets, wrapped in green Pakistani flags, had been brought to a naval base here before being flown to their hometowns on special air force flights.

"Indians must not go unpunished," shouted one of the grieving relatives as Sharif moved to console him. "We must pay them in kind," another said. Sharif nodded wordlessly.