UAE plane crew remain detained in India
Kolkata, September 8, 2009
Indian authorities continued to question the crew of a UAE Air Force aircraft which was detained at Kolkata airport after arms and ammunition were allegedly found on board the plane on Sunday.
Indian Customs and airport officials interrogated the nine-member crew till Monday afternoon. After that, the ministry of defence (MoD) took over.
According to media reports, talks are on in Delhi to avert a possible diplomatic row and officials here are tight-lipped.
Officials from the ministries of defence, external affairs and finance are having talks with the UAE air force authorities to resolve the issue, said a top official.
Indian foreign minister SM Krishna told reporters in New Delhi that India would facilitate the early release of the UAE military aircraft carrying arms/ ammunition/ explosives including combat missile 'after their authorities expressed regret for not declaring the cargo earlier.'
''The UAE government authorities have approached us to say it was a technical mistake the pilot has committed' by not disclosing the weapons. In view of the friendly relations between the UAE and India we will take a decision on this,' he said without elaborating.
The nine-member crew - the captain, a co-pilot and a navigator as well as two engineers, an airman and three others - are staying in a city hotel under tight security. The army is guarding the plane.
According to media reports, the C-130 Hercules was on its way to Xiangyang, China, from UAEAF's Western Air Command base in Abu Dhabi.
As per plan, the aircraft was to land in Kolkata around 4 pm on Sunday, refuel, stay for the night and take off for China at 10.30 am on Monday. The crew members were even booked for the night at a star hotel.
It was at around 7pm on Sunday a team from the air intelligence wing, led by B Jha, boarded the aircraft for a routine check and found three boxes that resembled those for carrying rifles.
On questioning, the pilot admitted there were weapons inside but that he did not have any details. He allegedly told officials that he was a mere courier and would often fly weapons to China for 'tests'.
Although the UAE government had the necessary clearances from Indian authorities for the flight to land in Kolkata, it had not informed that the aircraft would be carrying weapons, said senior officials.
The pilot's declaration regarding the weapons on board may have dismissed the theory of the crew being involved in gun-running, but the aircraft cannot be allowed to leave. All clearances granted have expired,' an officer said.