Indian jets violating Pakistani airspace ‘technical incursion’, says Zardari (Fourth Lead)

December 14th, 2008 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon BrownNew Delhi/Islamabad, Dec 14 (IANS) Tension escalated in Pakistan Sunday after reports that Indian fighter jets had violated its airspace, an allegation that India swiftly denied. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has now termed it a “technical incursion” and said the media “overhyped” it.Media reports were rife in Pakistan early Sunday saying that Indian fighter jets had violated its airspace late Saturday night and early Sunday in Lahore and Pakistan-administered Kashmir sectors, and an emergency was declared at the Pakistan Air Force airbases at Shorkot and Sargodha.

However, in New Delhi, Indian Air Force (IAF) spokesperson Wing Commander Mahesh Upasini told IANS: “There has been no violation of Pakistani airspace by Indian fighter planes. The reports are untrue.”

“There is a misinformation campaign going on to digress attention from what happened on 26/11,” he said referring to the terror attacks in Mumbai.

A senior IAF official of the Western Air Command, denying the Pakistani allegation, added that they had received no complaints from Pakistan on the matter so far.

Geo TV quoted a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) spokesman as saying that the Indian aircraft had intruded up to four km inside Pakistan territory. However, the official said that it could be due to a “technical gaffe”.

PAF sources said that two Indian fighter jets had intruded into Pakistan territory, but the Pakistani airforce had chased back the Indians. PAF said it was always ready for the defence of the country.

Zardari, during a press conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said that the reported violation was due to “technical incursions, which happen when planes are flying very high and close to the border”.

“My information, which is the correct information, is that it was a technical incursion, which happens when planes are flying at 50,000 feet, when they turn, a slight incursion could take place,” he said adding talks were on between the two sides on the matter.

Earlier, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was quoted by GEO television as saying, “India violated Pakistani air space and our air force is on high alert to defend any violations.”

Pakistan’s Information Minister Sherry Rehman said in Islamabad that Indian air force planes “inadvertently” violated its airspace Saturday.

“We have confirmed it. We contacted the Indian air force and they said the violation was inadvertent. We don’t want to escalate the situation,” Rehman maintained, while talking to media persons.

Pakistan Air Force spokesman Air Commodore Humayun Viqar said in a statement: “Indian aircraft entered into Pakistan’s airspace at two different sectors and were swiftly responded by the efficient Pakistan air defence system, forcing them to return to their own territory.”

He, however, said this could have been a “technical mistake”, adding the Pakistan Air Force was ready to defend its space.

Relations between Pakistan and India have been under strain in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks that killed more than 170 people late last month. India has said elements in Pakistan were behind the attacks.

Leader of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif has strongly condemned the reported violation of Pakistan air spaces by Indian jets, and said “”the entire nation is united for the defence of the country”.

Pakistan television reported that Indian jets flew over Pakistani-administered Kashmir and the eastern city of Lahore, both places where the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is active. India blames the LeT for the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan has arrested key leaders of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a front organisation for the LeT, and shut down its offices after the UN listed it as a terror outfit. But India has said Islamabad must do more.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence. New Delhi this week ruled out military action against its neighbour.

A report in The News daily of Pakistan said that the Pakistani army has confirmed an unusual movement of medium and heavy military artillery vehicles from the cantonment area of Lahore to north of Punjab Saturday, but the military spokesman said it was only for winter exercises.

The heavy movement of military vehicles caused a scare among the people amid the current tensions between India and Pakistan.

When contacted, Director-General Inter Services Public Relations Major-General Athar Abbas stated that the unusual military movement was due to routine winter military exercises.

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