Pakistan claimed it carried out air raids inside Indian-administered Kashmir and shot down two Indian jets on Wednesday. It also captured an Indian pilot, who has become the face of the crisis.
Here is what we know so far.
On February 14, at least 42 paramilitaries were killed in a suicide bomb attack in the Indian-administered Kashmir, causing a public outrage.
It was the deadliest attack in nearly three decades of the Kashmir conflict, and was claimed by Pakistan-based armed group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM).
Kashmir has been a major flashpoint since the end of British rule in the subcontinent in 1947.
A ceasefire line divides the disputed region between India and Pakistan, but both claim the Muslim-majority region in its entirety.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi threatened a “jaw-breaking” response after the bombing.
New Delhi demanded action from Islamabad, which it accuses of using armed groups as proxies to drive unrest in Kashmir and carry out attacks in India.
Pakistan has denied any involvement and warned India against linking it to the February 14 attack.
On February 26, Indian warplanes crossed the Kashmir ceasefire line into Pakistani airspace, dropping bombs on what New Delhi described as a large JeM camp in Balakot.
New Delhi said a large number of JeM fighters had been killed, but Pakistani officials said the attack was a failure and inflicted no casualties.
On February 27, Pakistani jets flew across the Kashmir ceasefire line in what Islamabad described as a show of strength, hitting open spaces after locking on to six military targets.
But there was a dramatic escalation when the Pakistani planes were chased by Indian fighters. In the ensuing fight, both sides claimed to have shot down each other’s warplanes.
Pakistan said it downed two Indian jets, and detained one of their pilots. New Delhi confirmed the loss of one of its planes, and said a Pakistani jet was shot down – which Islamabad denied.
India has demanded the “immediate and safe return” of the pilot.
As tensions reached a level not seen in years, Pakistan closed its airspace completely.
Some leading nations, including the United States, and the United Nations have expressed concern over the sudden deterioration in relations between the two countries.
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday there would be some “reasonably decent news” on the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan, a day after the two nuclear powers downed each other’s jets.
“They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop. We have been in the middle trying to help them both out.”
Earlier, the White House had urged “both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement he had spoken separately with the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan and urged them to “prioritise direct communication and avoid further military activity”.
China, a close ally of Pakistan, expressed “deep concern” over the crisis.
“As friends of both India and Pakistan we very much hope that dialogue and communication can be used to ascertain the facts and manage the situation and together safeguard peace and stability in this region,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for de-escalation and offered to help India and Pakistan open talks on the crisis.
The European Union, Iran, Japan and other countries have also weighed in on the crisis and called for restraint.
Pakistan has placed a ban on the screening of all Bollywood films in cinemas across the country after Indian air raids.
“No Indian movies will be released in Pakistan,” Fawad Chaudhry, the country’s information minister, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
Earlier, the All Indian Cine Workers Association announced a complete ban on Pakistani actors and artists working in the Indian film industry.
“If any organisation insists on working with Pakistani artists, it will be banned by AICWA and a strong action will be taken against them. Nation comes first, we stand with our nation,” the notice by the association read.
There are growing calls for peace and military restraint on social media, with the hashtag #SayNoToWar being widely used and trending worldwide.
“Indications are that both sides do not want to escalate the military dimension, but there is an intense media/social media ‘war’ at play. Hopefully, diplomatic channels will soon weigh in,” Indian defence expert C Uday Bhaskar told Al Jazeera.
“Both sides should remain committed to a ‘no-escalation’ policy and a window should be agreed to where both sides present their version or narrative of events from Balakot to now,” he added.
Both sides have sought to play down the threat of war.
On Thursday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Geo News that Prime Minister Imran Khan was ready to speak with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi via telephone “and is ready to offer peace”.
Earlier, Prime Minister Khan and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj have said they do not want to escalate further.
A lot rests on how India reacts to the Pakistani retaliation and the capture of its pilot, analysts said.
“If India were to… retaliate again, that could really take things to another level,” US analyst Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center told Bloomberg TV.
But the fact that Pakistan has one of its pilots “may limit its options and may make it a bit more cautious”.
Given domestic political considerations, and coming on the heels of the Pakistani retaliatory move, I doubt India is ready for deescalation just yet. But the captured Indian pilot gives Islamabad a key bargaining chip that may affect just how muscular Delhi's next move could be.
— Michael Kugelman (@MichaelKugelman) February 27, 2019
And given limited communication between the two, “there is increased scope for misunderstanding and miscalculation”, wrote Rahul Roy-Chaudhury of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
While there is international pressure to avoid a full-blown war, there may be pressure within India to not let Pakistan have the last word.
“India is led by a government that’s very conservative, and has been very tough on Pakistan. There’s an election coming up in a few weeks in India… I find it hard to believe that India would be ready to de-escalate,” Roy-Chaudhury said.
“I don’t know if we’ve seen the last of these fireworks on the sub-continent, unfortunately.”
With additional reporting by Zeenat Saberin