South Asia

India pilot daughter accepts Pakistan pilot's 'remorse'

Pakistani F86
Image caption Mr Hussain intercepted the Indian aircraft flying solo in an F86

The daughter of a dead Indian pilot has thanked a Pakistani fighter pilot for apologising after shooting down the aircraft that her father was commanding more than four decades ago.

Farida Singh said the incident happened in the "confusion of a tragic war".

Her father Jahangir Engineer was flying the plane which had apparently drifted off course along the border.

Qais Hussain, who was a Pakistani pilot during the 1965 war with India, shot down the eight-seater plane.

Earlier, he wrote to Mrs Singh saying he was sorry for the loss of precious lives during the incident and was acting under orders from his superiors.

The Pakistanis suspected the craft of being on a reconnaissance mission to open a new war front.

Mr Hussain was ordered to shoot it down, despite pleas for mercy by Mr Engineer.

The former fighter pilot said that when he landed back at an air base at Karachi, he felt highly elated for having completed the mission.

'Overwhelmed'

But the mood changed later that evening when All India Radio announced that the plane had been a civilian Indian aircraft with eight people on board.

In a letter to Farida Singh, Mr Hussain said that everyone connected with the incident felt sorry and dejected.

Mrs Singh replied that she was "somewhat overwhelmed" at receiving the letter. She said the death of her father had "defined our lives".

"But in all the struggles that followed, we never, not for one moment, bore bitterness or hatred for the person who actually pulled the trigger and caused my father's death," she wrote.

"The fact that this all happened in the confusion of a tragic war was never lost to us. We are all pawns in this terrible game of war and peace."

Describing her father as an "ace pilot, a great leader of men [and] a willing team player", Mrs Singh said he was also generous of spirit.

"Hence it is now easy for me to reach out my hand to receive your message. This incident is indeed a prime example of what damage strife and mindless battles can drive even good men to do," she said.

Mr Hussain said he decided to write to the family after all these years when an opportunity arose through his contacts in India, who put him in touch with the pilot's daughter.

"I feel sorry for you, your family and the other seven families who lost their dearest ones," his letter stated.

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