India admits friendly fire downed helicopter in Kashmir clash

In this file photo taken on February 27, 2019 Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, outside Srinagar. (AFP)
Updated 04 October 2019

India admits friendly fire downed helicopter in Kashmir clash

  • Military helicopter crashed on February 27 as Indian and Pakistani aircraft engaged in dogfights
  • Missile killed all six on board in chopper

NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force confirmed for the first time on Friday that it shot down one of its own helicopters during clashes with Pakistan in February over Kashmir, killing all six on board.
“A court of inquiry was completed and it was our mistake that our missile hit our chopper,” said the head of the Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Bhadauria.
“We will ensure such mistakes are not repeated in the future,” he told reporters.
The military helicopter crashed on February 27 as Indian and Pakistani aircraft engaged in dogfights over Kashmir in their most serious military skirmish in years.
A day earlier Indian aircraft had bombed what New Delhi called a “terror camp” used by the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group in the Balakot area of Pakistan.
That followed a suicide bombing on February 14 claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed that killed 40 Indian troops.
The Indian military at the time gave no reason for the helicopter crash although media reports cited unnamed sources as saying it was friendly fire.
Confusion still surrounds how many other aircraft were shot down, with Pakistan saying it downed two Indian fighter jets but India saying it lost only one.
India meanwhile said it shot down an Pakistani F-16 — an assertion repeated by Bhadauria on Friday — but Pakistan denied this at the time.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 and has been the spark of two wars and several clashes. China also claims a part of the Himalayan region.
Tensions have spiked again since India revoked the autonomy of the part of Kashmir that it controls on August 5.


Pakistan to be part of new Saudi foreign manpower program 

Updated 14 November 2019

Pakistan to be part of new Saudi foreign manpower program 

  • New skills-based system to be launched from next month
  • Will include India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Starting next month, Saudi Arabia will introduce a new skilled foreign manpower program that will eventually include Pakistan, a senior official at the Saudi labor ministry said this week. 

Nayef Al-Omair, head of the vocational examination program at the Ministry of Labor, said on Tuesday in Riyadh that the ministry was categorizing the tasks and the structure of some professions for visa-issuing purposes.

Under the new policy, visas would be issued only after skill tests and the previous system would be gradually phased out. 

The new scheme would be optional for one year starting December 2019 after which it would become compulsory, Al-Omair said. The new program would first be applied to manpower recruited from India due to its large size in the Saudi market.

Eventually, the program will cover seven countries, including India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Workers belonging to these states constitute 95 percent of professional manpower in the Kingdom’s local market.

Saudi Arabia is home to around 2.6 million Pakistani expats those have been a vital source of foreign remittances.

Last year the country received $21.8 billion in remittances out of which $5 billion were remitted by Pakistani nationals working in Kingdom.

According to the Pakistani ministry of finance, there was a major decline in manpower export to Saudi Arabia where only 100,910 emigrants proceeded for employment in 2018 as compared to 2017, a drop of 42,453 emigrants.

However, Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, special assistant to the Pakistani prime minister on overseas Pakistanis, said in an interview earlier this month that Saudi Arabia had agreed to increase the share of the Pakistani labor force in the multi-billion dollar New Taif City development.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have formed working groups to develop procedures for this transfer of manpower. Pakistani groups will visit the Kingdom in the coming months to finalize arrangements.