M A I N   N E W S

Army copter strays into PoK, but no fireworks as govts stay calm
New Delhi reacts swiftly, gets in touch with Islamabad; 4-member crew back
Ashok Tuteja & Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service


  • The helicopter reportedly strayed into Pakistan because of bad weather and low visibility near the Shingyo River in the Drass sector
  • It entered the Gultari sector in PoK and was made to land at a helipad in Olding near Skardu
  • The pilots probably misjudged the alignment of the LoC because of bad weather


1206 hrs: Indian Army’s ‘Cheetah’ helicopter takes off from Leh for Bhimbat to repair another helicopter

1317: The helicopter accidentally crosses the Line of Control near Drass

1355: Indian observation points notice an Indian helicopter crossing the LoC, report matter to Leh authorities

1400: Pak TV channel says an Indian helicopter has landed in Pakistan

1400: Leh Army authorities inform HQ, Vice-Chief of Army Staff

1420: The Indian and Pakistani Directors General of Military Operations talk to each other

1430: External Affairs Minister SM Krishna asks Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan to take up matter with Foreign Office in Islamabad

1500: Pakistan says it is probing the intrusion but Indian Army personnel safe

1800: Pak Army agrees to allow the Indian helicopter to return to India

1805 hrs: India helicopter flies back to Kargil with the four Army personnel

New Delhi/Leh, October 23
India and Pakistan today amicably resolved what could have snowballed into a major crisis when Islamabad allowed an Indian Army chopper to fly back a few hours after it strayed 20 km inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) due to bad weather.

The Cheetah helicopter, carrying two pilots, a maintenance engineer and a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) from the maintenance wing returned to Kargil at 1805 hrs this evening, Army sources said.

Confirming that the helicopter and the Indian Army personnel were back, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said: “We greatly appreciate the manner in which Pakistan worked with us in resolving the matter”.

As soon as the Pakistan side confirmed that an Indian Army helicopter was in its custody after it violated the PoK airspace, New Delhi established contact with Islamabad at different levels to seek the release of the copter and the personnel aboard.

The Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) on the Indian side contacted his Pakistani counterpart while Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal got in touch with Pakistan Foreign Ministry officials.

After Pakistani authorities investigated the matter and established that the chopper had indeed strayed into the PoK airspace and had not deliberately violated the Line of Control (LoC), the helicopter was allowed to return to India.

This was the first incident of its kind along the volatile LoC but the spirit with which the two countries settled the issue augurs well for the bilateral relationship days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Maldives on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit next month, sources said.

The helicopter had taken off from Leh and was headed to Bhimbat, around 250 km west in the Drass Sector, to repair another helicopter of the Army. The helicopter reportedly strayed across the LoC at 1317 hours because of bad weather and low visibility near the Shingyo River in the Drass sector. It entered the Gultari sector in the PoK where the personnel at an observation post asked the pilot to land the helicopter at Olding near Skardu in the Baltistan area.

The LoC in this area runs along a ridgeline, which is around 11,000-ft high. The pilots probably misjudged the alignment of the LoC because of bad weather. The Army aviation operates helicopters in the Himalayas for its administrative and maintenance needs.

The Army personnel aboard were identified as Maj Raja and Maj Kapila (both pilots), Lt Col Verma (maintenance engineer) and Naib Subedar Abilash Kumar.

Confirming that an Indian Army helicopter had been forced to land after it entered PoK airspace, Pakistan Army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said in Islamabad: “We are getting details and investigation is on. The more important thing is that the crew is in safe custody.”

Indian officials asserted that the helicopter’s landing in PoK was not a deliberate intrusion. After a thorough investigation, the Pakistani side reached the conclusion that the air violation was not deliberate and it was announced that the helicopter had been allowed to fly back to India.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |