RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and SALMAN MASOOD
Sunday, Dec 14, 2008
Indian warplanes crossed into Pakistani airspace on Saturday over two parts of the country where the militant group accused of carrying out the Mumbai terror attacks is active, according to Pakistani officials, who said they scrambled their own air force jets to chase the Indian aircraft back across the border.The incursions would appear to be an aggressive display by India, whose top officials describe neighboring Pakistan as the “epicenter of terrorism” and say Pakistan’s own intelligence service has long aided Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed for the attacks in Mumbai last month, which sharply raised tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.
Pakistani officials trumpeted the airspace breaches in statements to the news media but said there was no cause for “alarm.” They also said they had contacted Indian officials, who confirmed the breaches as accidental. But Indian outlets also reported on Sunday morning that the Indian military had denied any improper flyovers.
The Pakistani government sought to play down the airspace violations as “inadvertent,” but it did not elaborate on how two separate breaches so far away could be unintended and coincidental.
According to the Pakistani account, one violation occurred over the portion of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir that is controlled by Pakistani forces, while the other happened at least 100 miles south, near Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province and Pakistan’s second-largest city. Both areas are strongholds of Lashkar and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity group shut down last week by the Pakistani government after the United Nations labeled it a front for Lashkar.