PAF turns back Indian jets
* Pakistan Air Force spokesman says Indian warplanes flew over Kashmir, Lahore
* India says incursions were ‘inadvertent’
* PM says violations will not be taken as attack
Daily Times, December 14, 2008
ISLAMABAD: Indian aircraft violated Pakistani airspace in Kashmir and Lahore sectors on Saturday but were chased back over the border, the Pakistani government and a Pakistan Air Force spokesman said.
Air Commodore Himayun Viqar said the Indian aircraft crossed into Azad Kashmir and the eastern city of Lahore. The state-run APP news agency said two aircraft were involved, but did not give the exact time.
‘Inadvertent’: Information Minister Sherry Rehman said there was no need for alarm and that the Indian Air Force had told Pakistan the incursion was ‘inadvertent’. “We have confirmed it. We have spoken to the Indian Air Force and they have said it was inadvertent,” she said. “Our air force is on alert and is ready to face any eventuality, but we do not expect this to escalate. There is no need for alarm.”
In New Delhi, an Indian Defence Ministry spokesman said he had no information on the reported incursion.
The Azad Kashmir prime minister confirmed the reports while talking to a private TV channel.
The violations occurred at a time of heightened tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours following a series of terrorist attacks on Mumbai two weeks ago that the Indian government has blamed on elements based in Pakistan.
Another private TV channel in Pakistan said the Indian jets were ‘fully armed with weapons and ammunition’ and flew up to four kilometres inside Pakistani territory.
It quoted unidentified officials as saying that the violations occurred ‘during the day’ but did not elaborate.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani were immediately informed, the channel said.
Prime minister: Gilani said the Pakistani government was not taking the Indian violations as an attack on Pakistan because they were not deliberate.
TV reports quoted him as saying it was a ‘minor technical mistake’ that delayed a manoeuvre in air.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) spokesman told Aaj Kal a top-level PAF meeting followed the violations to discuss a course of action amid increasing tensions between India and Pakistan.
He said it was premature to call the violations an attack, but added that the PAF was “fully prepared to deal with any situation”.
Nawaz Sharif, chief of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, condemned the Indian violation of Pakistani airspace in a statement late on Saturday. “The Pakistani nation is united against any foreign aggression,” he said.
The state-run PTV also reported an explosion was heard in the Arabian Sea, between the Badin and Jati towns, but a Pakistan Navy spokesman denied the report. “There were no reports of any explosion in the Arabian Sea,” the spokesman said. A TV channel quoted military sources as saying that the Pakistani armed forces had been put on high alert. India and Pakistan have fought three wars and went to the brink of a fourth in 2002. A peace process begun in 2004 appears to be in jeopardy after the Mumbai attacks. agencies/daily times monitor/aaj kal report