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Wednesday, August 11, 1999 Published at 05:42 GMT 06:42 UK


World: South Asia

Plane attack raises tensions

Indian officials showed what they said was plane wreckage

India and Pakistan have blamed each other for the shooting down of a Pakistani aircraft by India, with the reported loss of all 16 people on board.


The BBC's David Chazan reports on the latest crisis between India and Pakistan
Delhi says the naval reconnaissance plane entered Indian airspace over the western state of Gujarat and was shot down by a jet fighter after refusing to land.

But Islamabad says the French-made Atlantique plane was unarmed and on a routine training flight in the Sir Creek area in Sindh province, southern Pakistan.


Sartaj Aziz : "Any small incident creates a danger of war"
Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz warned: "Pakistan reserves the right to make an appropriate response in self-defence."

For its part, India has placed its air force, navy and army near the border on high alert.

Both countries say they have retrieved wreckage of the plane within their own territory.


[ image:  ]
Pakistani officials took journalists to see a plane fuselage which had ploughed into the mud of the Indus river at a point they said was two minutes' flying time from Indian territory.

India, on the other hand, said the wreckage was lying 4km inside its territory near Kori Creek in Gujarat.

It said it had retrieved part of the plane's wreckage including a wing, the cockpit and the plane's cable hydraulic system. It flew scraps of what it said was the wreckage into Delhi early on Wednesday, and showed them to waiting journalists.

An air force spokesman said: "The fact that we were able to receive the wreckage without an interference from the Pakistan side shows that this is in our territory."

Dispute

Pakistan said the aircraft went missing at 1100 Pakistan time on Tuesday and the wreckage was discovered shortly afterwards, a few kilometres inside its own territory.


The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad: "The UN have asked India and Pakistan to show restraint"
Mr Aziz described the attack as a "blatant and unprovoked act of military aggression against an unarmed aircraft".

India has admitted the shooting but said the surveillance aircraft was shot down after veering 10km (six miles) inside its airspace and acting in what was described as a hostile manner.


The BBC's David Chazan in Delhi: "Pakistan is demanding an apology"
Defence Minister George Fernandes said: "The plane which was shot down had not come with peaceful intentions."

The Indian military charged that Pakistan had violated Indian airspace in that area eight times since May.

Hostilities

India and Pakistan came to the brink of a fourth war in 52 years just a few months ago, when hostilities broke out between the Indian armed forces and Pakistani-backed fighters across the Line of Control in Kashmir.


[ image:  ]
Although fighting in the region ended last month, sporadic shelling between the two sides has continued. There has also been an increase in militant activity in Indian-administered Kashmir with Indian military coming under attack.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "increasingly concerned at the repeated incidents between India and Pakistan and urges that the differences between them be resolved by peaceful means," according to a spokesman.

Washington urged both countries to return to the process of normalising relations agreed last February.

The BBC's Daniel Lak in Delhi says the incident will probably not lead to escalating military tensions, but it is another setback to already dim hopes of a diplomatic solution to disputes that have previously led Pakistan and India to full-scale war.



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10 Aug 99 | South Asia
The disputed Sir Creek

10 Aug 99 | South Asia
Indian downing: The Atlantique

27 May 99 | South Asia
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26 May 99 | South Asia
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Naval Technology: The Atlantique


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