Pakistan Navy patrol plane was shot down by India in 1999; Indian
plea that world court had no jurisdiction was upheld
LAHORE: In June 2000, some 10 months after Islamabad had filed an application at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Registry to institute proceedings against India for shooting down a Pakistan Navy’s patrol aircraft on August 10, 1999, the 16-judge Bench at this international arbitration forum had upheld New Delhi’s submission by ruling that it had no jurisdiction in the matter.
The then Indian Attorney General, Soli Sorabjee, had argued that the ICJ did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. On June 21, 2000, at a public sitting, the 16-judge Bench headed by Gilbert Guillaume of France had ruled in India’s favour with a 14–2 verdict.
The two dissenting notes had come from Justice Al-Khasawnch of Jordan and a Pakistani ad hoc judge, Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada.
Pakistan sought about US$60 million in damages from India and compensation for the families of the victims.
Pakistan’s claims were dropped, without recourse to appeal, and the outcome was seen as a decision highly favourable to India.
(References: The International Court of Justice Case page, the BBC, The Hindu, the Press Trust of India, Embassy of India in Washington DC, Pakistan Defence Journal, The News, Dawn and the India Today etc)
The Pakistani government had reportedly spent close to Rs 25 million (approximately US $400,000) on the case at that time.
In this incident, also known as the “Atlantique Incident”, two Indian Air Force MiG-21 planes had shot down Pakistan Navy’s frontline patrol aircraft with all 16 people on board resultantly killed.
The plane had flown off at 9.15 am on August 10, 1999 from Mehran Air Base, only to be targeted just two hours after the take-off at 11.17 am by an air-to-air Indian missile, which had hit the engine on the port side.
The incident was the Pakistan Navy’s only loss of an aircraft to hostile fire in its history since the 1971 East Pakistan tragedy and the biggest combat-related casualty for the navy since the Indo-Pak war of 1971.
While India had alleged the French-built Breguet Atlantic plane violated the Indian airspace, Pakistan had claimed that the plane was unarmed and the debris was found on Pakistan’s side of the border, asserting there was no violation of the enemy country’s airspace.
Pakistan had further insisted that navy’s frontline aircraft was used primarily for patrol and reconnaissance.
India had contended that the Pakistani plane had not responded to international protocol, adding it acted in a “hostile” manner. The Indian side had also maintained that the debris of a downed aircraft could fall over a wide radius. According to the Pakistani officials, the plane was on a routine training mission inside Pakistan airspace.
Nawaz Sharif, who was serving his second stint in power at that time, had stated during the funeral service of the airmen that the shooting was a barbaric act.
Foreign diplomats based in Pakistan, who were escorted to the site by the Pakistan Army, had noted that India’s reaction was unjustified.
In October 2000, the Indian pilots - Wing Commander VS Sharma, Squadron Leader Pankaj Vishnoi and Squadron Leader PK Bundela - were decorated by the Indian government with medals for tracking down and successfully shooting down the Pakistani aircraft.
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