IAF downs balloon near Barmer; proves harmless

A large balloon was shot down on Tuesday 26 January, Republic Day, by an Indian Air Force fighter jet near Barmer in Rajasthan, on the border with Pakistan, but no dangerous payload was found in it, defence officials said today.

"On analysis of the debris, it was established that there was no dangerous payload," defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Ojha said. Sources said that it was a private balloon and the possibility of it carrying any spying object is initially ruled out.

The IAF radar had picked up the unidentified balloon-like object moving easterly in Jaisalmer area, sending the authorities into a tizzy.

A fighter jet intercepted the object which was found to be balloon of about three metres diameter. "Due to heightened security alert, the balloon was shot down," Ojha said.

In May, the police had caught a pigeon which had strayed over from Pakistan in Punjab's Pathankot area. Pathankot Senior Superintendent of Police Rakesh Kaushal said he suspected that the pigeon had landed on the Indian soil from Pakistan. When asked if the bird had any message attached to it, Kaushal said nothing of that sort had been found.

"However, we are conducting investigations," the officer said, adding that pigeon fanciers in the sensitive border area have told the police that Pakistani doves were easily distinguishable from their Indian counterparts.

Until the investigation gets over, the feathered intruder will cool its feet at the Indian police station.