Your father spotted my presence immediately
August 8, 2011 10:21 PM   Subscribe

In August-September 1965, India and Pakistan went to war for the second time since their independence in 1947. On September 19, a civilian aircraft (Beechcraft Model 18) carrying the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat (bordering Pakistan) was shot down by a Pakistani Air Force pilot (flying an F-86F). Now, 46 years later, the Pakistani pilot has written a condolence letter to the daughter of the pilot of the Indian civilian aircraft.
posted by vidur (8 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Manners matter.
posted by longsleeves at 11:05 PM on August 8, 2011

I was not expecting that to bring a tear to my eye.

I was also interested in the "Author's Note" in the second link, although I don't think the pilot's action requires a defence, given the circumstances.
... the author is inclined to consider the intriguing possibility of a case of mistaken identity. In such a scenario, the staff at HQ No 2 Sector would have found Qais’ initial report broadly matching the description of a C-119 ‘Packet’ transport aircraft of the IAF, to the extent of being ‘twin-tailed, twin-engined, with four side windows.’ In all likelihood, no one knew what a civilian Beechcraft Model 18 looked like, whereas the unique C-119 military transport aircraft was a recognisable silhouette in Aircraft Recognition charts and manuals readily available in all Ops Rooms. The prompt shooting orders may have, thus, come straightforwardly, not withstanding the civilian registration number called out by Qais earlier.
posted by doublehappy at 11:10 PM on August 8, 2011

Interesting and touching - the kind of letter many people choose to write after carrying a burden of guilt through most of their lives. This one stands out because Pakistan's military is notorious for sharing very little accurate information about those wars:

Mrs Singh, I have chosen to go into this detail to tell you that it all happened in the line of duty and it was not governed by the concept that ‘everything is fair in love and war’, the way it has been portrayed by the Indian media due to lack of information.

The talk pages of wikipedia articles about those wars bear this out - lots of Pakistanis complaining of Indian lies, with others pointing out that India actually released information while the Pakistan military and government didn't and still don't really like to.*

* a less generous person might assume that it's so they can keep lying to their people about how they didn't start any of the four wars, and won all of them.
posted by vanar sena at 2:42 AM on August 9, 2011

Nonetheless, the unfortunate part in all this is that I had to execute the orders of my controller... I did not play foul and went by the rules of business but the unfortunate loss of precious lives, no matter how it happens, hurts each human and I am no exception.

I'm sorry, but "just following orders" is neither excuse nor apology. And this is no exception.
posted by three blind mice at 4:19 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ive never really considered myself as one of those ra-ra patriots - always prized cold rationality over emotive bursts - but this is ridiculous. This is not regret, there is no greater point being made here; the pilot explicitly says he was following orders and that shooting the plane down gave him satisfaction, and that he was the only person to witness the pilot asking for "mercy". He's free to feel whatever he wants - that's his business - but to mention both in a letter to the bereaved's daughter feels grotesque.

That the paper didn't carry the daughter's response is telling in itself; I cant speak for anyone but myself, but if I were in the daughter's position, I wouldnt want to hear from this person ever again.
posted by the cydonian at 5:33 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

I thought this was self serving and not terribly well written either. After 46 years, this was all he could express?
posted by AugustWest at 9:17 AM on August 9, 2011

This letter only comes after an article published a few months ago gave details that were previously unknown. Before then, he was still a murderer, it's just that no one knew about it.

Ah, but there's the line in the apology about the "Indian media" and their implicit untruthfulness. This is a propaganda piece.

Whatever. I hope it manages to comfort the pilot's loved ones.
posted by Errant at 9:31 AM on August 9, 2011

That the paper didn't carry the daughter's response is telling in itself; I cant speak for anyone but myself, but if I were in the daughter's position, I wouldnt want to hear from this person ever again.

I think that was because the daughter hadn't responded by then. Now, she has:
Accepting the apology tendered by Pakistan Air Force pilot Qais Hussain for shooting down the aircraft flown by her father during the 1965 War with the very same tenderness with which it was offered, Farida Singh on Wednesday hoped his touching letter would heal wounds not just on a personal scale but in a much wider arena.
posted by vidur at 6:38 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

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