Pakistan releases Indian army chopper

Pakistan releases Indian army chopper

New Delhi: An Indian army helicopter with four officers on board was forced to land by Pakistani fighter jets on Sunday after it strayed into airspace over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, but was released soon after.

The return of the Cheetah helicopter and the military personnel took place “after the directors general of military operations on both sides spoke to each other," said the officer, who declined to be identified.

The Indian army will institute an inquiry into the incident, the officer said. Television channels reported that the chopper will be examined for any malfunction of its global positioning system.

The Indian foreign ministry in a statement confirmed the return of the helicopter and personnel, saying India was “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," foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said in a statement.

The Cheetah helicopter, with two army majors, one colonel and a junior commissioned officer on board and on its way from Leh to Bhimbat in Kashmir, strayed across the de facto line-of-control border into the Pakistan-occupied part of Olding sector in northern Skardu region at around 1 pm, Reuters news agency reported.

The incident happens at a time the two South Asian countries are trying to improve ties strained after a terror attack by Pakistan-based militants in Mumbai in 2008. Both sides are in the midst of peace talks, resumed earlier this year, to bridge the trust deficit.

Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said Pakistan had handled the situation of the Indian chopper inadvertently entering Pakistani airspace “deftly" by “quickly releasing the helicopter and crew."

Reuters contributed to this story.