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India Urges Restraint From Pakistan

August 13, 1999

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ India says its military held back after Pakistani troops fired a missile at Indian aircraft flying near the border, and urged Pakistan to show similar restraint in the latest confrontation between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Tensions rose between the neighbors after Indian fighter jets shot down a Pakistani military aircraft Tuesday, killing all 16 crew members. On Wednesday, Pakistan fired a surface-to-air missile that sailed short of Indian military helicopters flying journalists to the crash site.

India lodged a protest against the missile firing late Thursday. Responding to fears that tit-for-tat attacks could escalate out of control, it pressed Pakistan to ``exercise due restraint.″

India insists that it shot down the plane Tuesday because it veered inside Indian territory, violating a 1991 agreement that requires combat aircraft to stay six miles away from the border. Pakistan said the plane was one mile inside Pakistan when it was hit.

``We want a dialogue with Pakistan, but these kinds of provocations are not conducive to the normalization of relations,″ Foreign Office spokesman Raminder Jassal said.

The United States urged both sides ``to avoid further loss of life and further escalation and heightening of tensions,″ State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said.

The U.N. Security Council also called on India and Pakistan ``to settle the problem through bilateral consultations.″

In an interview with The Associated Press in Islamabad, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz criticized India for violating the agreement as well _ but did not say that Pakistani aircraft had abided by it.

Asked whether Pakistani aircraft violated Indian airspace, Aziz said, ``Suppose it did. ... How can a propeller plane like this threaten a jet?″

Pakistan ``would certainly not like to initiate any (incidents) and we hope India won’t,″ he said.

India’s air force and western defenses were on high alert Thursday. In Islamabad, Aziz said his country had increased air patrols near the border and had put its army on alert.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars during the last 50 years and came close to a fourth during an 11-week-long conflict in Kashmir earlier this year. The fighting began after hundreds of Pakistan-based Islamic guerrillas occupied Himalayan peaks along the frontier. India said the fighters were mostly Pakistani army regulars, a charge Pakistan denied.

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