Clear message: Indian ‘spy drone’ shot down in AJK

Indian envoy summoned over airspace violation

Kamran Yousaf/reuters July 16, 2015
An image of the Indian drone shot down by the Pakistan Army near Bhimber. PHOTO: INP


The Pakistan Army claims to have shot down an Indian ‘spy drone’ in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK), in a new sign of the decades-old tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours in the disputed region.

Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah said Indian High Commissioner Dr TCA Raghavan has been summoned on Thursday (today), adding that Pakistan would raise the issue with the Indian envoy. No official response has been received from India.

This development came days after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi held a meeting in the Russian city of Ufa. In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the two leaders had agreed to meetings of senior military officials from the two sides to lower tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistani military’s media wing, said in a statement on Wednesday that the drone was shot down for intruding into Pakistan along the LoC near Bhimber, in AJK. “The spy drone was being used for aerial photography,” it added.

A military official told The Express Tribune that Pakistan would not allow India to violate its airspace, adding that taking down the spy drone was a clear message in that regard.

Industry experts said the small, unarmed model was sold commercially for aerial filming and would contain no secret military technology. A photo supplied by the Pakistani military appeared to show a Chinese-made DJI Phantom 3, said Huw Williams, the Unmanned Systems Editor at IHS Jane’s International Defence Review.

“Due to its limited operating range – about two kilometres – if the Indian military is using the system, it would most likely be for close reconnaissance or security work,” Williams said. “Our Middle East editor believes that the Islamic State is using similar systems.”

This is not the first Indian spy drone that Pakistan has shot down. In 2002, an Israel-operated drone flying out of India was taken down by the Pakistan Air Force near Kasur.

Police in India had captured a pigeon this May on the suspicion of being used by Pakistan to spy. The bird was seized after being spotted carrying a ‘stamped message’ on its body. The message was written partly in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan. It also contained a Pakistani phone number, according to reports.

Pakistan and India have frequently accused each other of violating the 2003 ceasefire accord along the LoC and the Working Boundary. There has been a sudden increase in such violations ever since Premier Modi came to power in India last May.

Pakistan often protests that the US drone strikes are an infringement of its national sovereignty and has been pushing for its own lethal drones.

In March, the Pakistani military announced that it had test-fired its own drone, Burraq, equipped with a laser-guided missile, Burq. Analysts said the video showed a drone similar to models produced by Pakistan’s close ally China.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2015.

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