The swift intervention from top military and foreign ministry establishments and a desire to stay away from crisis, so as to keep the peace-process on track, seem to have worked behind an Indian army helicopter returning home within five hours after landing in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
New Delhi was prompt in “greatly” appreciating the way Pakistan has worked with it in resolving the crisis — the Cheetah helicopter had strayed into Pakistan airspace around 1.20pm and was back by 6pm.
“We are relieved that our officers and helicopter are back. We greatly appreciate the manner in which Pakistan has worked with us in resolving the matter,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.
The helicopter, which officials said was on a “maintenance mission”, had strayed inside Pakistan airspace due to inclement weather.
Soon after it was forced to land, the office of the director-general of military operations (DGMO) sent a message to its Pakistan counterpart.
According to an official, it was an “urgent message” that DGO Lt Gen AM Verma wants to speak to his Pakistan counterpart. And officials said they spoke “within half-an-hour”. Almost at the same time, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad took up the matter with Pakistan foreign office.
It was conveyed that the helicopter had strayed due to bad weather and the crew and the chopper be returned. “It was due to inclement weather that the chopper, flying from Leh to Bhimbatith with four officers on board, strayed across the LoC and landed in PoK,” an official said. The four officials were then taken into “safe custody”.
The matter was also taken up with Pakistan High Commi-ssion in New Delhi. As military and diplomatic efforts went on full swing, Pakistan accepted the Indian explanation for the incident and agreed to send them back, officials said.