Georgian cargo plane forced to land after violating Indian airspace.
On Friday, a Georgian Antonov-12 heavy-lift aircraft was forced to land at Jaipur because it committed an airspace violation. The aircraft had taken off from Tbilisi and was en route to Delhi via Karachi when it entered an unscheduled area in North Gujarat. Due to the heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following the Balakot airstrike, the two countries have been very tightly controlling their respective airspaces.
The aircraft entered Indian airspace via North Gujarat, which wasn’t part of the flight plan authorized by the Air Traffic Services (ATS). The crew failed to respond to radio calls from Indian air traffic controllers, which is why Indian Air Force Su-30 MKI’s were scrambled to intercept the cargo aircraft, which was flying at 27,000 feet.
The IAF pilots, on visually recognizing that it was an An-12 of Georgian origin, shadowed the plane, while constantly hailing it on international distress frequencies and gesturing the crew to respond to the messages. When this did not work, the pilots challenged the aircraft. This was when the crew responded, saying that it was a non-scheduled An-12 aircraft heading towards Karachi from Delhi. The An-12 (UR-11316)was operated by Motor Sich Airlines, a Ukraninan airline that operates an 11-strong fleet of antiquated Soviet-era aircraft for commercial purposes.
The IAF interceptors then forced the aircraft to land at Jaipur at. Upon landing, the CISF cordoned off the area and the crew was taken in for questioning. The aircraft was reported to have been carrying spares.
“The aircraft did not follow the authorized ATS route and was not responding to radio calls from Indian controlling agencies,” the IAF said in a statement.
“Nothing suspicious was found in the investigation. The plane has been released,” Jaipur Additional Police Commissioner Laxman Gaur said.
Something similar had happened in 1995 when an unidentified An-26 dropped a cache of arms in Purulia, West Bengal under highly mysterious circumstances. The arms dump, later on, confiscated by the authorities, consisted of 2,500 assault rifles of varying calibers and over 1.5 million rounds of all types. The chief accused “Kim Davy” (real name Niels Holck, alias Niels Christian Nielsen) claimed that it was a conspiracy of the Congress with RAW and MI5 to overthrow the communist government in West Bengal and he was given assurances from the central government about his safety and return to Denmark. He further alleged that the-then PM, P.V. Narasimha Rao was involved in this as well. The Purulia arms case even inspired a Bollywood flick, Jagga Jasoos.
Was this an example of pilot error? Or was the An-12 just another pawn in a deadly game of international geopolitical chess?