New Delhi: An Indian army helicopter forced to land after straying into Pakistan in bad weather yesterday has been allowed to return.
The Chetak helicopter with four officers on board returned to Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir around 6pm, ending an inadvertent intrusion that immediately triggered urgent talks between the neighbours.
The copter landed safely in India, according to Virendra Singh, the army's assistant public relations officer.
Indian military officials earlier said that pilot error forced the helicopter to stray across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
The helicopter carried two pilots, a junior commissioned officer and an engineer officer.
It had taken off from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir's Ladakh region and was bound for Bhimbhat in the Drass sector near Kargil, on the LoC, to bail out a grounded Indian Army helicopter.
Forced to land
Pakistani officials said the helicopter, which took off at around 1pm, was forced to land in the Skardu sector in Pakistan-administered Kashmir for violating the country's airspace.
Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said in Islamabad: "The helicopter had come deep into our airspace. It was forced to land. Four Indian army officers have been taken into safe custody. They are safe."
Pakistan accepted the Indian version that the airpace violation was an accident caused by volatile weather.
Immediately thereafter, the director-general of military operations in New Delhi got in touch with his Pakistani counterpart to retrieve the chopper and its occupants.
India's foreign ministry also contacted the Pakistani government.
Manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, the Chetak is a multi-role, seven-seater helicopter. It is highly manoeuvrable and well suited for flying over sea and in tropical and desert conditions.
The copter is frequently deployed for a variety of civil and military roles.