New Delhi: An Indian army helicopter that strayed into Pakistan in bad weather Sunday and was told to land there has returned to India after Pakistani authorities let it go, an Indian official said.
The Chetak helicopter with four officers on board returned to Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir around 6 p.m., ending an inadvertent intrusion that immediately triggered urgent talks between the two foreign and military establishments.
The chopper landed safety in India, Virendra Singh, the army’s assistant public relations officer, told IANS. Indian military officials earlier said that pilot error forced the chopper to stray across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
The helicopter carried two pilots, a junior commissioned officer and an engineer officer. It had taken off from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region and was bound for Bhimbhat in Drass sector near Kargil, on the LoC, to bail out an Indian Army helicopter that got grounded there after a snag.
Pakistani officials said the helicopter, which had taken off at around 1 p.m., was forced to land in Skardu sector in Pakistani administered Kashmir for violating the country’s airspace.
Skardu also lies close to the LoC. Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said in Islamabad: “The helicopter had come deep into our airspace. It was forced to land. Four Indian army officers have been taken into safe custody. They are safe.”
Pakistani accepted the Indian version that the violation of the Pakistani airspace was an accident, caused due to volatile weather. Immediately thereafter, the director general of military operations (DGMA) in New Delhi got in touch with his Pakistani counterpart to retrieve the chopper and its occupants.
India’s foreign ministry also contacted the Pakistani government. Manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, the Chetak is a multi-role, seven-seater helicopter. It is highly manoeuverable and well suited for flying over sea, tropical and desert conditions. The chopper is frequently deployed for a variety of civil and military roles.