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Pakistan releases Indian chopper that crossed LoC

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Oct 23, 2011 at 11:10pm IST

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New Delhi: The official sources have confirmed that the issue of Army helicopter being forced to land in PoK by Pakistani military, has been resolved.

Military and diplomatic channels of the two countries were activated and the Army Aviation Corp's Cheetah helicoper with three middle-level officers and a JCO on board was released and returned safely back to Kargil just before sunset

less than five hours after it inadvertently crossed the Line of Control(LoC) due to 'inclement' weather.

Expressing relief over return of its officers and helicopter which had strayed into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir due to bad weather, India on Sunday said it 'greatly appreciates' the manner in which Pakistan has worked with it in resolving the matter.

"We are relieved that our officers and helicopter are back in India. We greatly appreciate the manner in which Pakistan worked with us in resolving the matter," Ministry of Exteranal Affairs said here.

The government sources said that an inquiry will be ordered into how the Army helicopter strayed into Pakistani airspace.

"The pilots will be questioned. The helicopter's on board GPS and other navigational system will be examined to determine how this incident happened," they said.

Pakistani officials are satisfied with verification and everything has been worked out at Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO) level, sources said.

Pakistan's Chief Military Spokesman General Athar Abbas said, "All the Indian crew member have been released and they are on the way to India and the matter has been resolved.

Indian army sources said there was no deliberate intrusion by the Cheetah helicopter, which was forced to land in Olding sector near Skardu, about 20 km from the Line of Control(LoC), and that the incident occured due to 'inclement weather.'

Pakistani Army said the chopper was forced to land once it 'violated' the airspace over their country.

One Engineering officer of Lieutenant Colonel rank, two Majors(both pilots) and one JCO (technician), who were onboard the helicopter, were taken into 'military custody' and

questioned by Pakistani authorities.

Less than five hours after the incident, the chopper with all its crew were allowed to return and landed in Kargil just before sunset.

The Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan were in constant touch, Army sources said.

The Indian High Commission in Islamabad was also in touch with the Pakistani side, the Ministry of External Affairs said in New Delhi.

The chopper was on its way to Bhimbhat from Leh.

Pakistan's chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas in a statement earlier said: "An Indian helicopter was forced to land once it violated Pakistani airspace at 1300 hours today in Olding sector near Skardu. Four persons, including three pilots, have been taken into custody."

The Indian helicopter had intruded 'deep' into Pakistani airspace, Abbas alleged but did not say how the helicopter was forced to land about 20 kms inside PoK.

Indian authorities across the LoC had been informed about the incident, Abbas said. The detained Indian personnel were safe, he added.

Indian Army sources said the chopper entered the airspace over PoK at around 1320 IST and returned to Kargil at 1800 IST.

"It is understood that an army cheetah helicopter, flying from Leh to Bhimbad, earlier in the day, with four officers on board, strayed across the Line of Control (LoC) due to inclement weather and landed in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)," the Ministry of External Affairs said in New Delhi.

The Ministry had also noted that 'efforts were underway to establish contact with Pakistani DGMO (Director-General of Military Operation) to retrieve the personnel and the helicopter.

"Our High Commission in Islamabad is also in touch with the Pakistani side," it said.

(With additional inputs from PTI)

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