Pakistan fires on Indian helicopters

TENSION BETWEEN India and Pakistan threatened to boil over yesterday after Indian helicopters were fired upon by a Pakistani surface-to-air missile battery, apparently in retaliation for the shooting down on Tuesday of one of its naval surveillance planes with the loss of 16 servicemen.

India said that three of its helicopters, which were 15 miles inside its own territory, were forced to take emergency evasive action. They had been travelling to view the wreckage of the Pakistani aircraft.

Pakistan admitted firing a missile, but said it had been in response to an attempted intrusion by two Indian jets flanked by helicopters, which had fled the scene immediately. The latest incident demonstrated that the international appeals for calm appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

The United States had earlier pleaded for both countries to adopt maximum restraint and hinted it might send an envoy to both capitals to reduce tension. Both countries mounted a propaganda offensive yesterday, producing video footage and wreckage from the French-built Dassault Atlantique plane. Wreckage was recovered from each side of the border dividing Pakistani Sindh and Indian Gujarat. Delhi maintained that the site of the debris proved conclusively the aircraft had invaded India airspace on a "spying mission".

But Islamabad said the discovery of parts on the marshy land in Pakistani territory clearly showed India had crossed the border to fire on an unarmed plane on a routine training mission.

The incident raised temperatures, which had barely cooled since 10 weeks of fighting in Indian-run Kashmir was ended last month. Pakistan ordered the withdrawal of Islamic militants only after intense diplomatic pressure from the international community.

India's cabinet committee on security, headed by the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, met yesterday for 45 minutes to discuss the incident. Defence staff showed the committee members wreckage of the Pakistani aircraft retrieved on Indian soil. Group Captain D N Ganesh told the cabinet committee that the wreckage was spread over a wide area and that the stricken plane had overflown the weaving border twice as it fell and broke up, explaining why some bits ended in Pakistan.

Pakistan's Navy in Karachi, which maintained the flight was over home territory when attacked, said Indian helicopters had stolen across the border to retrieve some of the debris. "It took about two or three hours before we found the wreckage," said a Pakistan Navy spokesman. "So there is a chance that they might have taken some to their side."

The US called for both sides to use "restraint and dialogue" to resolve their differences. The Pentagon said that an envoy might be sent to heal the rift. The spokesman Kenneth Bacon said: "We have in the past sent emissaries to both [countries]. If we believe it will be useful, we will do so again."

After the latest incident last night, the dispatch of an envoy seems even more likely. Pakistan's senior military spokesman, Brigadier Rashid Qureshi, speaking at Badin, Sindh, near the Atlantique's crash site, was unrepentant. "Two Indian jet fighters tried to enter this area but were forced to run after we fired at them."

Leading article, Review, page 3

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable