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Pakistan Says It Downed an Indian Drone. But Did It?

Disputes over whether or not Pakistan shot down an Indian drone could increase tensions between the neighboring countries.

Indian security personnel run to take position during an attack by militants at Raj Bagh police station in Kathua district, some 60 kms from Jammu on March 20, 2015.   Two suspected rebels stormed a police station in Indian Kashmir, killing three officers and a civilian before being shot dead by government forces, police said.  AFP PHOTO        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian security personnel run to take position during an attack by militants at Raj Bagh police station in Kathua district, some 60 kms from Jammu on March 20, 2015. Two suspected rebels stormed a police station in Indian Kashmir, killing three officers and a civilian before being shot dead by government forces, police said. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Just days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepted an invitation from his Pakistani counterpart to visit Islamabad next year, the question of whether or not Pakistan shot down an Indian drone is threatening the stability of the neighbors’ fledgling friendship.

The Pakistani military announced Wednesday it had downed an Indian surveillance drone operating over Pakistani territory, and on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned the Indian ambassador to discuss his country’s alleged intrusion into Pakistani airspace. India has pushed back hard: According to the Associated Press, Col. S.D. Goswami, an Indian army spokesman, said no spy drone “has crossed into the Pakistani side, and none of our unmanned aerial vehicles has been shot down by them.”

Photos of the crashed drone circulating in the media Thursday show a small surveillance vehicle that could reportedly be bought commercially, raising further doubts the drone would really have belonged to India’s relatively sophisticated military.

And speaking to reporters in New Delhi Thursday, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said “the photograph of the drone in question indicates that it is not of Indian design, nor of any UAV category held in the inventory of the Indian armed forces.”

Jaishankar added that although India was committed to peace with Pakistan, any unprovoked firing would force them to retaliate appropriately.

If the downed drone doesn’t belong to the Indian military after all, the deaths of civilians on both sides could be enough for Modi, an avowed nationalist, to reconsider his first official trip to Pakistan since he took office — one designed to improve ties between the two frequent adversaries.

The trip could now be coming at a tense time. Territorial disputes in and around Kashmir have sparked both open conflict between the two countries and an on-again, off-again insurgency that have together left thousands dead.

D. Parekh, a senior officer with India’s Border Security Force, told the AP that Pakistani soldiers shot a soldier guarding a border post in Pargwal area, then continued to fire at his comrades as they attempted to help him, which prompted retaliation.

Pakistani soldiers then reportedly fired mortar shells, killing one woman and injuring three civilians, in what Parekh called “a blatant, unprovoked cease-fire violation by Pakistan.”

Although the number of dead and injured remains unconfirmed, other reports, including from the BBC, say Pakistan claims four were killed and five injured.

Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images

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