Wednesday, February 21, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

India lodges protest
Intruding Pak aircraft were not hit
Tribune News Service & Agencies

Jammu, February 20

Notwithstanding denial by Pakistan, two small aircraft had intruded the Indian airspace in Chhamb of Akhnoor sector yesterday. However, none of the aircraft were hit by the LMG fire opened by Indian troops.

According to Defence Ministry sources, the troops opened fire when they spotted the two-seater aircraft, having a single propeller fixed wing, flying over the Indian territory at a speed of 120 km per hour. Both were slow-moving planes.

The sources said some Indian intelligence agency had “dished out” a report to mediapersons that one of the aircraft was hit and crash in the Pakistani area after it flew back.

Air space violation by Pak

However, there was confusion as the first report of air violation was given to a section of the Press in Jammu at 8 p.m. While the incident had taken place at 2.15 p.m. the delay in briefing the media had generated suspicion.

The Defence Ministry sources said the ground troops had no anti-aircraft guns at that time. Had they been equipped with the anti-aircraft guns, both planes would have been shot down.

The sources said the planes had violated the Indian airspace for reconnaissance. What is intriguing is that the intrusion was spotted by the troops near the LoC in the Chhamb sector. The sources said the sophisticated radar system there could not monitor a low flying single engine small aircraft. The Air Force radars could easily monitor any airspace violation if the aircraft were fighter planes.

There would have been no confusion had the defence authorities not taken the incident lightly. Informed sources said neither the public relation (PR) office in Jammu nor in Udhampur were informed about the incident. Media centres were tight-lipped. One public relations office in the Northern Command got a hint about the incident. An officer probed the matter and conveyed to the top brass in the command that the incident was important and needed media coverage. Had he not got the wind of the incident, the matter would have probably remained unreported.

For the past over a year, the PR wings of the Defence Ministry in Jammu and Udhampur remained neglected by field commanders. The result is that reports on incidents of consequence, including intrusion, encounters and other militancy-related incidents, are given to the media late in the evening.

Meanwhile, a report from New Delhi said India today lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over yesterday’s air space violation in the Chhamb sector of Jammu and Kashmir by two reconaissance aircraft of that country, even as it rejected as “totally baseless” Islamabad’s denial of such incursions.

The protest was conveyed by the sector commander of the Chhamb area to his Ranger counterpart in occupied Kashmir (PoK), defence sources here said.

Rejecting as totally baseless Islamabad’s claim that Pakistani planes had not violated Indian airspace, a Foreign Office spokesman said the two aircraft had strayed across the Line of Control.

A protest is also expected to be lodged by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and by the government with the Pakistani Mission here. today that India would lodge a protest with Pakistan over what it called a violation of its airspace by two Pakistani surveillance planes.

Defence Minister George Fernandes told reporters that he would make a statement in Parliament later in the week on the alleged intrusion. “Parliament is in session. I do not want to be involved in any controversy,” Mr Fernandes said.

Haigam inquiry: Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has appointed Mr Justice O.P. Sharma, a judge of the J and K High Court, as a one-man commission to inquire into the firing on a procession of residents of Haigam, Sopore in Baramula district on February 15.

In a notification issued here, the government has asked the commission to inquire into the causes and circumstances which led to the firing, resulting in the death of some persons and injuries to others.

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