The helicopter that breached Indian airspace in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch today was carrying the top official of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) Raja Farooq Haider Khan, news agency Reuters has said. The Indian Army had targeted the helicopter with small firearms for entering the country’s airspace around noon.
Although Mr Khan’s presence in the aircraft was initially reported by the Pakistani media, the official confirmed it. “The Indian Army fired to show that Pakistan violated their airspace, but when the firing took place, we were within our own airspace,” he said.
According to Pakistani media channel Aaj News, the so-called “Prime Minister” of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir was preparing to land in the Tarori area when the Indian Army began shooting. The incident is likely to further fray ties between the two countries.
The Pakistani helicopter was first spotted in Indian airspace at 12:13 pm, sources said.
In a video apparently shot by a witness, a white Pakistani helicopter was seen flying high the side of a Poonch hill amid sounds of constant gunfire — an indication that the army was trying to shoot it down.
Mr Khan insisted that his helicopter was unarmed, but called for calm. “We do not want any war hysteria in this region,” he said.
According to norms recognised by both India and Pakistan, helicopters are not supposed to come within one kilometre of the Line of Control or LoC, and fixed-wing aircraft within 10 km. In February, a Pakistani helicopter was seen flying 300 metres from the LoC.
“Pakistan is adopting an aggressive posture… This violation of airspace is a serious matter,” Major General Ashwani Siwach (retired) told NDTV over the phone. “It needs to be seen how deep the helicopter came inside Indian territory and how long it was in Indian airspace… then only one could make out what could be the aim of this intrusion, is it recce, is it surveillance.”
However, Major General Siwach conceded that the aircraft may have crossed the LoC inadvertently. “Due to navigation problem a helicopter pilot can come by mistake,” Major General Ashwani added. “As far as small helicopters are concerned, navigation is done manually. At times they make use of landmarks on the ground.”
(With inputs from Reuters)