Army Chopper Strays Into PoK, Sent Back After Few Hours23 October 2011
The Indian Express
New Delhi: An Indian Army helicopter with four personnel on board - a Lt Col, two Majors and a JCO - was forced to land in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir near Skardu after it strayed almost 20 kilometres across the Line of Control due to bad weather on Sunday. While the four Army personnel were initially detained by Pakistani authorities, the issue was resolved in less than five hours following talks between the two countries. The Cheetah helicopter, with its crew, was allowed to return to Kargil by evening. The helicopter, which was flying from Leh to Bimbat, strayed across the LoC in Drass’s Gultari sector, at around 1 pm and was initially reported missing. News that the chopper and crew were safe came from Pakistan’s military spokesperson, Maj Gen Athar Abbas, who announced that an Indian helicopter was forced to land after it “violated Pakistani airspace” and the four personnel on board had been “taken into custody”. While details of the forced landing are not clear, it is believed that the chopper was instructed to land by Pakistani authorities over the radio. What ensued was a hectic round of talks that saw the activation of the “hotline” between the two Director Generals of Military Operations as well as diplomatic efforts through the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. Sources said the Pakistani foreign ministry assured India that the crew and chopper would be sent back. These sources said India explained that the incident was not a deliberate violation of airspace but a genuine mistake brought on by bad weather conditions. It was pointed out that the chopper was not on any reconnaissance or spying mission. “The Cheetah helicopter was on a routine administration and maintenance flight, with two officer pilots and maintenance personnel. The helicopter was moving to rectify another Cheetah helicopter which had landed there due to a technical snag,” said an Indian Army spokesperson. Expressing relief over the safe return of the chopper and its crew, the Ministry of External Affairs appreciated “the manner in which Pakistan worked with us in resolving the matter”.