Pakistan, India row over 'violation' by fighter jets
Sun, Dec 14, 2008

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Pakistan accused India's air force of violating its airspace, drawing a swift denial from New Delhi, as Britain's visiting prime minister sought to defuse tensions on Sunday.

Pakistan's statement that Indian jets made an "inadvertent" intrusion threatened to further harm ties between the nuclear-armed South Asian states, whose relations have plummeted in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

"There has not been any airspace violation as has been alleged," Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani, spokesman for the Indian Air Force, told AFP.

The row broke out as British leader Gordon Brown , who will visit Pakistan later, held talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on regional security after the assault on Mumbai.

Relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated in the wake of the devastating siege on India's financial capital, which New Delhi has blamed on "elements" in Pakistan.

Pakistan's air force said Indian jets had Saturday flown over the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir and the eastern city of Lahore, both places where the militant group India blames over the attacks is active.

The government said it had confirmed the incident with India.

"We contacted the Indian air force and they said the violation was inadvertent. We don't want to escalate the situation," Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.

A total of 172 people died when gunmen ran riot in India's financial capital last month, leading to a 60-hour siege in which hundreds of others of terrified locals and tourists were caught up.

India this week called Pakistan the "epicentre" of terrorism and demanded it do more to crack down on militant groups on its soil, but ruled out military action.

Pakistan has arrested key leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group India accuses, and shut down a charity accused of being a front for the organisation, freezing its assets and detaining dozens of members.

But it says it will not hand over any suspects to India, which it says has not yet provided any evidence implicating Pakistanis in the attacks.

Pakistan's air force said Indian planes entered Pakistani airspace in two different locations daytime Saturday and were repelled by its air defence system.

"Indian aircraft entered into Pakistan's airspace... at two different sectors and were swiftly responded by the efficient Pakistan air defence system, forcing them to return to their own territory," said spokesman Air Commodore Humyun Viqar in a statement.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain, and Brown's visit is part of a concerted international effort to ease the pressure between the two nations.

Brown met with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh early Sunday and will travel to Pakistan later in the day for talks with President Asif Ali Zardari, an AFP correspondent travelling with him said.

Britain has previously urged India and Pakistan, whose long-running dispute over divided Kashmir is a fault line of geopolitical significance, to work together in the wake of the devastation.

Brown's Foreign Secretary David Miliband said earlier this month that "violent extremism is a threat to the very integrity of both of those countries."


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