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Bird strike likely caused Indian MiG-21 fighter jet crash near Pakistan, defense ministry says

An Indian fighter jet crashed on Friday, March 8 in desert close to the border with Pakistan, likely caused by a bird strike, the defense ministry said.

The Russian-made MiG-21 Bison jet was on a routine sortie from Air Force Station Nal in western Rajasthan state when it crashed near Bikaner at around 2:30 p.m., the Ministry of Defence statement said, adding that the pilot ejected safely.

“Initial inputs indicate the likely cause of accident as bird hit after take off,” it said.

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 is a jet fighter and interceptor aircraft first developed in the Soviet Union in the 1950s. It began to enter service in India in the 1960s, and the upgraded Bison variant is the most recent, inducted by the Indian Air Force in the early 2000s.

Crashes involving military aircraft are not uncommon in India.

On January 28, an Indian Air Force SEPECAT Jaguar fighter jet crashed shortly after takeoff in Uttar Pradesh.

Three days later, a Mirage 2000 fighter jet crashed in Bangalore during a routine testing flight, killing two pilots.

On February 12, a MiG-27 fighter jet crashed at the Pokhran firing range.

The crash comes as tensions between India and Pakistan are high following tit-for-tat air strikes and an aerial dogfight between the nuclear-armed Asian nations over the disputed Kashmir region last month.

India carried out air strikes inside Pakistan on February 26 after 40 paramilitaries were killed in a suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The bombing was claimed by the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad.

It was the first time since 1971 that India hit territory beyond Kashmir.

The next day Pakistani and Indian planes engaged in a dogfight over Kashmir. India said one of its aircraft was shot down – Pakistan said two – and its pilot captured by Pakistan’s military.

India said it shot down a Pakistan Air Force plane but Islamabad denied this.

Pakistan returned the pilot to India on March 1, easing tensions, but both sides have continued artillery fire over the de-facto border that divides Indian and Pakistani Kashmir.

Both countries are maintaining a tight vigil in the skies and conducting frequent fly-overs of Kashmir. India on March 4 shot down a Pakistani military drone, media reports said.

Pakistan said on Tuesday that it stopped an Indian submarine from entering its waters.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both nuclear-armed rivals claim Kashmir in full, and they have fought three wars over control of the Himalayan territory.

India has deployed half a million troops in the part it administers to counter militants fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan which it says are backed by Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died since a revolt that broke out in 1989. Last year was the deadliest in a decade with almost 600 killed, monitors say, sparking anger among locals.

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With reporting from AFP

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