Leader of the Pakistan-administered Kashmir region has accused Indian troops of shooting at his helicopter while it was flying close to the highly militarised Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border dividing the region.
The incident happened in Havaily district in Poonch sector in the India-administered Kashmir when Raja Farooq Haider Khan, prime minister of the Azad (Independent) Kashmir region, was on his way to a nearby village to give condolences to the family of a local politician who had died.
“My helicopter had not even committed any violation and was flying well within our side of the LoC when Indian troops opened fire,” Raja Farooq Haider Khan, prime minister of the Azad Kashmir region, said in a statement from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad on Sunday.
“The Indian army fired to show that Pakistan had violated their airspace,” Khan’s statement said.
— ANI (@ANI) September 30, 2018
Spokesperson for the Indian army, Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand, said the helicopter violated Indian air space along the LoC in Poonch around 12PM local time (06:30 GMT).
“It could likely be a civil chopper and was flying very high. The air sentries at forward location had engaged it with small arms,” said Anand.
Khan said his helicopter was not armed.
“We do not want any war hysteria in this region,” he said.
India and Pakistan both claim the Himalayan territory in full. The area has witnessed a surge in shelling in recent months.
The incident is likely to further worsen relations between the two belligerent neighbours, who have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.
New Delhi has long accused Islamabad of supporting rebel groups in Kashmir, who either want independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Pakistan denies supporting rebel groups and calls the uprising in Kashmir an indigenous freedom struggle.
Shortly after assuming power in August, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan offered an olive branch to India by inviting for talks, which have remained suspended for nearly three years.
India agreed, and a meeting of the foreign ministers of the two nations was planned on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
But a week before the scheduled meeting, India abruptly called off the talks.
While the foreign ministers of the two countries did not meet, they ended up trading barbs at each other in their speeches at the UN on Saturday.