The four Indian Army officers whose helicopter had strayed into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) on Sunday and was forced by the Pakistan army to land were treated well, sources said on Monday.
“The Pakistanis also refuelled the Cheetah helicopter to enable them to return to Kargil,” said sources privy to what the officers disclosed on their return.
According to the sources, two factors guided the Pakistan army’s behaviour after questioning the Indian officers. First, the helicopter, which has a capacity of four, had as many passengers, ruling out the possibility of a spy having been dropped on the PoK side. Second, the helicopter did not have surveillance equipment.
The Pakistan army’s gesture has elicited appreciation from the Indian Army, which spent anxious moments after news of the helicopter’s forced landing in Skardu, PoK, was conveyed to its generals.
The Indian officers — a lieutenant colonel, two majors (pilot and co-pilot) and a junior commissioned officer — were released after the director general of military operations spoke to his Pakistani counterpart on hotline. The external affairs ministries of both countries also played a role in defusing a potential crisis.
The helicopter, on its way from Leh to Bhimbhat in the Drass sector on a maintenance mission, had strayed across the line of control (LoC) into Pakistani airspace around 1.20pm after encountering bad weather, sources in the Indian Army had said on Sunday.
The helicopter was made to land in the Olding area of Skardu, 20 km inside PoK in Gilgit-Baltistan and allowed to fly back around 6pm.