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Pakistan Intercepted Indian Passenger Plane in Its Airspace in September: Officials

CC0 / / F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Pakistan Air Force
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Pakistan Air Force  - Sputnik International
New Delhi (Sputnik): An Indian passenger plane en route to Afghanistan's capital Kabul, from New Delhi, was intercepted by Pakistan Air Force jets on 23 September, officials linked to India's civil aviation regulator have revealed.

Pakistan allowed the flight by the SpiceJet Boeing 737 to continue regular operation, but escorted the plane out of Pakistani airspace following confusion over its call sign, an official said on the condition of anonymity.

All flights are assigned unique codes, and Spice Jet's is 'SG', sources told the Indian media agency that the pilots misunderstood the SpiceJet code as IA – Indian Army.

However, no official details were available on why this happened. The DGCA refused to divulge further information given the sensitive nature of the incident.

The Asian neighbours are at odds, ever since India fell victim to the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir this February, which it alleges was carried out by Pakistan. India responded with airstrikes in the Balakot region of Pakistan.

The incident occurred when Pakistan's airspace was not restricted for Indian flights – the country has since closed its airspace to India, following the Balakot airstrikes on 26 February.

The pilot of the plane, which had 120 members on board, briefed Pakistan F-16 Jet pilots saying the Indian commercial flight was on its way to Kabul as per schedule, Indian media agency ANI reported.

A passenger onboard the flight, while requesting anonymity, said the Pakistani jet pilot, through hand gestures, asked the Spice Jet pilot to lower the altitude of the plane. The passengers were also asked to shut their windows and maintain silence, the agency added. The flight, however, reached Kabul safely.

In September, Pakistan had refused to give access to its airspace for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs expressed disappointment over the move and accused Pakistan of deviating from standard international norms, according to Indian media reports.

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