Pakistani airforce on alert as Indian planes violate Pak airspace PAF chases away Indian warplanes
Sunday, December 14, 2008
India terms violation inadvertent; Mukherjee says evidence of Mumbai attacks will be shared with Pakistan after probe
Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets intruded into Pakistan’s airspace twice on Saturday, drifting some four kilometres inside the Kashmir and Lahore sectors, Geo News reported.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighters, already in the air as part of Air Defence Alert mission (Combat Air Patrol), rushed to counter the threat in the Kashmir and Lahore sectors, forcing the Indian warplanes to flee back to their airspace.
The IAF first violated Pakistan’s airspace at 11:30 am, entering Azad Kashmir from the north in the Lipa sector. This intrusion was countered by the PAF interceptors. The next IAF adventure was in the Lahore sector at 1:30 pm. Again the PAF interceptors on the Air Defence Alert mission scrambled to Lahore, forcing the Indian fighter jets to retreat.
The exact number of Indian jets which violated Pakistan’s airspace could not be ascertained. However, the fighter jets usually fly in the formation of two or more aircraft on such missions. The PAF always goes for scrambles when the Indian combat formations roll over the buffer zone (10 miles) inside Indian territory.
The incident raised fears of war as tension already prevailed between Pakistan and India in the backdrop of the Mumbai attacks. The Indian government later termed the action inadvertent. A similar statement was also issued from Pakistan’s PM’s office, saying ‘it was a mistake’. It is important to note it is almost impossible for a high-tech airforce to commit such a mistake twice on the same day. Defence analysts believe the violations were deliberate. The PAF spokesperson was of the view that the IAF wanted to check the readiness of the PAF.
The PAF, that was already alert to thwart any aggression, confirmed violation of the country’s airspace by Indian warplanes. It said the Indian warplanes intruded four kilometres inside Pakistani territory and were forced to return by the PAF warplanes.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also confirmed the incident quoting the PAF chief while Information Minister Sherry Rehman said the Indian Air Force was contacted after the violation.
PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif said the entire nation was united for the defence of the country. Azad Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Attique also condemned the violation, saying it was a conspiracy against Pakistan. He urged the leadership of both the countries to sit down and resolve all outstanding issues to avoid further escalation of tension.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif also condemned the incident. Meanwhile, Lahore buzzed with the news of the Indian violation after Geo broke the story late at night.
According to observers India may have resorted to blatant violation of Pakistan’s airspace to test the preparedness of PAF.
Agencies add: Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said India was ready to share necessary information and evidence with Pakistan after completing investigations into the Mumbai terror strikes.
Speaking to Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN show ‘Devil’s Advocate’, Mukherjee said India would provide whatever information was necessary.
“Whatever evidence we have we can make available, but in this case you know we are still investigating. We have not come to any conclusions. Therefore, at this juncture, it might perhaps be premature to share the evidence,” the minister said.
However, Mukherjee claimed that India had shared the evidence in the past with Pakistan but what he alleged it had not been followed up and taken to its logical conclusion.
On the question of extradition of wanted persons like Maulana Masood Azhar, the minister said India wanted arrest of Pakistani citizens allegedly involved in terrorist activities and tried them as per Pakistani laws.
“What I have told them - there are two categories of people involved. Some people who have committed crimes in India - they have left India and taken shelter in Pakistan, like Dawood Ibrahim. We are asking the Pakistan authority to hand over persons like these to Indian authorities so that they may be tried as per Indian laws. There are persons who are Pakistani citizens who are indulging in terrorist activities let them be arrested, let them be tried as per Pakistani laws,” the minister said.
“One person I am particularly mentioning - that is Masood Azhar, he was in Indian custody. We had to hand him over to the hijackers of the Indian (Indian Airlines IC 814) plane in Kandahar. He is available in Pakistan more than often,” said Mukherjee.
To a question on crackdown by Pakistan on terrorist organisations, he said, “We are waiting to see that such steps are pursued seriously.”
He said “non-state actors” are operating on Pakistani soil and that was why he had used the phrase “elements from Pakistan”.
Mukherjee said he couldn’t be more specific unless definitive conclusion was arrived by the investigating agencies.
In response to the demarche issued by India, Pakistan said it was considering various aspects on action to be taken and planning to send a high-level delegation to India.
In the demarche, he has sought action against two categories of persons — those who have committed crimes in India and have taken shelter in Pakistan, and Pakistani citizens indulging in terrorist activities in India, he added.
Meanwhile, talking to media persons in West Bengal on the sidelines of a function, he demanded of Pakistan to hand over terrorists wanted by New Delhi.
Pakistan was under international pressure now, he said and added the neighbouring country had to keep sanctity of the agreement between former leaders Pervez Musharraf and Atal Behari Vajpayee that Pakistani soil would not be used against India.
Referring to the term “Islamic terrorism”, Mukherjee said, “Islam does not believe in terrorism. It preaches love and brotherhood and it is the very tenet of the religion.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, meanwhile, cited it a “moral duty” of Pakistan to combat terrorism.
“The forces of terrorism, inspired by ideologies of hatred, intolerance and exclusion, pose today a fundamental challenge to liberal democracies,” Singh told a conference of jurists in New Delhi.
“They pose a challenge to democracy at home, to democracy in our region, to democracy around the world,” he said.
“Governments and authorities in our region and elsewhere have therefore a moral duty to act firmly and quickly,” he said.
Singh said the Indian democracy was hurt by the recent terror attacks across the country, especially the deadly siege in Mumbai.
Dr Singh said that when terrorists strike in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, “our economy is hurt, people are hurt, and India is hurt”.
Noting that the terrorists seek to target a particular community in their bid to cause disharmony, the PM cautioned that no specific group should be targeted in the fight against terror. He added that there was a sustained effort to spread communal disharmony in the country, seeking to destroy overall well being.
On the anniversary of 2001 Parliament attack, Dr Singh described terrorism as a “challenge to human spirit” and said the governments needed to be resolute to root out the menace. All democratic forces around the world have to come together to defeat terror, he said.
“Governments (across the world) have promised to fight terror quickly and in a united manner,” the PM added.
Singh said it was important to understand the relationship between human rights and the fight against terror. Fighting terror in fact defends human rights, he noted. “The threat of terrorism is not divisible. The fight against it is also not divisible. The defence of freedom and peace is also not divisible,” he said.
Stressing on the need for a cautious response to terror, the PM said the forces of terror are inspired by ideology of hatred.
Lauding the countrymen for the immense courage shown by them in the wake of deadly terror attacks across India recently, Dr Singh noted “each one of us has a responsibility to discharge”. “I urge each one of us... to follow the ideals that define our nation to ensure proper functioning of our democratic institutions.”
Thanking the international community for expressing solidarity with India in the wake of the “horrible” terror strikes in Mumbai, Dr Singh said he had received phone calls and letters from heads of state and government from several countries, including those from India’s neighbourhood. They have assured India that “they stand with us in our fight against terrorism”, he said.
The jurists’ conference is taking place on the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament, and comes almost three weeks after the Mumbai terror strikes.