ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Tuesday accused Indian jets of briefly violating its airspace, days after India said one of its soldiers had been killed by Pakistani troops.
The Pakistan Air Force said it scrambled two fighter jets after two “high-speed” Indian planes crossed the border over its eastern province of Punjab at about 10:40 am (0540 GMT). It said they left Pakistani airspace two minutes later.
The Indian aircraft violated Pakistani airspace by three nautical miles in Attari, Fazilka sector, Pakistan Air Force said. “The PAF initiated prompt tactical action and scrambled two fighter aircraft to challenge the intruders. The Indian aircraft exited the Pakistani airspace,” the statement said without providing further details.
Officials said the incident occurred over Pakpattan district, 200 km from Lahore.
Later in the evening, Foreign Ministry in a statement said it had “conveyed serious concern to the Indian High Commission (embassy) over the airspace violation.”
“Pakistan considers today’s airspace violation as a contravention of the “1991 Agreement between Pakistan and India on Prevention of Airspace Violations and for Permitting over Flights and Landings by Military Aircraft,” it said.
The foreign ministry added India should “respect all existing agreements and CBMs” (confidence building measures) that have been reached between the two countries.
According to Press Trust of India (PTI), a spokesman for Indian Air Force (IAF), however, downplayed the incident.
“It is clarified that IAF aircraft which were on a routine flying training sortie seem to have flown close to the border and it appears to be a technical violation. The same has also been conveyed to the Pakistan authorities,” the IAF spokesperson Sq Ldr Priya Joshi said.
India’s Western Air Command is expected to order a Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the technical airspace violation incident involving the two MiG 21s from the Bathinda air base, PTI quoted sources as saying.
Earlier, Indian Air Force sources, however, rejected the Pakistani claim of border violation, saying: “Our pilots did not cross the border,” the Press Trust of India reported.
Airspace violation by Pakistan and India is rare. However, both countries routinely accuse each other of intrusion and ceasefire violation in the disputed Kashmir region.
India accused Pakistan last week of fomenting militancy in the Indian state of Punjab and killing a soldier in cross-border firing. Pakistan rejected both allegations.
The nuclear-armed states have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Each administers part of the territory but claims it in full.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office last week, promising to pursue good relations with India and resolve outstanding disputes such as Kashmir.