Pakistan says planes came down in Pakistani
May 27, 1999
NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India said it lost two of its warplanes over Kashmir on Thursday, but disputed Pakistan's account that the jets were in Pakistani-controlled airspace at the time.
The planes -- MiG fighters -- were part of India's two-day-old aerial assault against Muslim guerrillas holed up in the mountainous Himalayan territory. India says both planes were inside its airspace in Kashmir when they were brought down.
"One MiG had mechanical failure, and the pilot
had to eject in inhospitable terrain," said Air Vice Marshal S.K. Malik. "To
pick him up, another aircraft had to go close to him. While trying to do so, he was shot
down by a missile," Mullick said.
While India said the planes were over its territory in Kashmir at the time, Brigadier Rashid Quereshi, a Pakistani military spokesman, said both planes were about five kilometers (three miles) inside Pakistani-controlled airspace when they were shot down.
Quereshi said one pilot was killed and Pakistani troops captured the other. He said Pakistan only fired on the planes after about 10 Indian bombs fell in Pakistani-held territory.
Muslim-dominated Kashmir has been the flashpoint of two of the three wars between India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, and is now divided by a 740-kilometer (460-mile), U.N.-drawn cease-fire line.
Each side blames the other for the current conflict:
India accuses Pakistan of supporting the Muslim rebels in Kashmir, while Pakistan said
Wednesday the Indian offensive is a pretext for seizing ground on its side of the
The renewed fighting between India and Pakistan has raised concerns worldwide, since both countries tested nuclear weapons a year ago and have tested missiles capable of delivering them. Pakistani response unexpected
India says its campaign is aimed at an estimated 600 Pakistan-sponsored militants in the rugged mountains that run along the dividing line between Pakistan and India. India says Pakistani soldiers are among the infiltrators -- an accusation Pakistan called "absolutely nonsense."
India says the separatists took advantage of the melting snow to occupy positions Indian troops were forced to leave last winter. India turned loose its air force to dislodge them, and analysts predict the bombardment will be followed up with ground troops.
Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said Pakistan's tough response to the Indian offensive was unexpected. He said the rough terrain and the lack of any permanent military posts in the area -- on either side of the cease-fire line -- made it difficult to gather intelligence.
"It's a point where Pakistan has taken the initiative which one did not expect it to take," Fernandes said. Since the Indian crackdown began, the routine artillery duels between Indian and Pakistani troops that face off along the border have been ferocious, he said.
An increasing number of civilians who live in the border region are fleeing the fighting.
Quereshi said the air assault against the guerrillas was continuing Thursday.
"The Indians continue to use their air force,
and there is continuous aerial bombardment in the area," he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz urged India to stop escalating the fighting and to honor the Lahore declaration, a document signed in February between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers.
In that document, the two uneasy neighbors promised
to try to settle their differences through negotiations.
Both Russia and China have urged the two nations to settle the conflict and Thursday warned against escalation.