NEW DELHI/GILGIT: India and Pakistan proved their commitment to the peace process on Sunday when an Indian Army helicopter that ‘strayed’ into Pakistan territory was returned with four army officials aboard after the courtesy of refueling by the Pakistan Army.
In the past, such an incident may have led to heightened tensions between the two countries. But the hotlines already present between the directors-general of military operations of the two countries were immediately activated, explanations sought and given and the helicopter returned before sunset.
An Indian army officer said: “It is a rough area. The Line of Control (LoC) is not a straight line. Therefore, if the weather is not good, a helicopter can land in the wrong area in an emergency, or even on the other side of the LoC. Civilian aircrafts have right to land in any country in case of emergency, as per international law. But as this was not a civilian aircraft, naturally there was an investigation.”
The Pakistan Army said an Indian army helicopter came 40 kilometres inside Pakistani territory, in the Olding sector of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The chopper was carrying three officers and one enlisted man. It was forced to land in Ahmedabad, a small town in Gilgit-Baltistan, at around 1 pm. An army official, who wished to remain anonymous, said the helicopter, along with the four Indian military officials, was allowed to return after “intervention at the highest level.”
Before the two countries agreed to a ceasefire in 2004, the LoC was one of the most volatile borders between India and Pakistan where crossfire between forces stations alongside the frontier was a routine matter.
“The helicopter had come deep into our airspace. It was forced to land,” military spokesperson Major-General Athar Abbas told Reuters.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2011.