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Indian helicopter strays into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir

October 23, 2011 |  8:32 am

Helicopter
REPORTING FROM NEW DELHI — An Indian army helicopter flying in bad weather strayed into Pakistani controlled territory in the disputed area of Kashmir on Sunday and was briefly detained.

In a rare case of cooperation between the two wary neighbors, however, the issue was resolved quickly and efficiently as Pakistan refueled the Indian Cheetah helicopter and allowed its crew to return to Indian territory, all within about five hours.

The Indian crew was reportedly made up of a colonel, two majors and a junior commissioned officer, but Pakistan was evidently convinced the intrusion was accidental after interrogating the crew and finding nothing more than routine engineering equipment aboard.

India and Pakistan, both of which have nuclear weapons, have fought three wars, two over Kashmir, since the countries gained independence from the British in 1947. Seemingly small incidents in the past have blown up into major disputes requiring top political intervention.

On Sunday, leaders reportedly made use of a hotline between the governments. It's not immediately clear whether the navigation error, which occurred as the Indian aircraft was traveling from Leh to Bhimbat, was the fault of the pilot or the equipment. India promised a full investigation.

Chief Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told Indian news channels that the helicopter strayed 12 miles into Pakistani territory when it was escorted down in Skardu around 1 p.m.

"All the Indian crew members have been released," he said. "The matter has been resolved."

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— Mark Magnier

Photo: An Indian Army helicopter in 2010. Credit: Getty Images

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