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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Junior Developer- CSS, HMTL, Bootstrap

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Junior Web Developer- CSS, HMTL

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz