A compass, a survival manual, a pistol and a metal box labeled "chocolate" appear to be all that remains of Flight Lt. Ajay Ahuja, a 33-year-old Indian air force fighter pilot.
Ahuja's body has not been found, but his belongings and his military identification card were found in the twisted wreckage of his MiG-27. Pieces of yellow and green metal littered the steep, rocky banks of the Indus River in Pakistan's portion of Kashmir, about four miles from the so-called line of control dividing the disputed province into Indian- and Pakistani-controlled areas. Painted on the MiG's tail was a large Indian flag.
[Early Saturday, Indian military officials reported that Ahuja's remains had been found and turned over to them by Pakistani officials, Reuters news agency reported.]
The location of the wreckage -- to which military authorities escorted a group of journalists this morning by helicopter, Jeep and footpath -- supported Pakistani officials' contention that this plane and another MiG had flown across the line of control while attacking Muslim insurgents in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Pakistan said Thursday that it had shot down both planes. India initially denied that they had crossed the line of control, saying one had crashed because of engine failure and the other was shot down over Indian territory. India later said the MiGs did not intentionally enter Pakistan, suggesting they might have overflown the de facto border in error or because of engine problems.
The loss of the two Indian planes on Thursday and India's launching of airstrikes Wednesday in its part of Kashmir to counter a guerrilla infiltration that it blamed on Pakistan pushed tension between the two regional rivals to the most volatile point since they both tested nuclear weapons a year ago. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them sparked by their competing claims to Kashmir.
No clashes were reported between the two countries today, but India reported that one of its helicopters was shot down inside Indian-controlled Kashmir. A spokesman for a militant Muslim movement in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, Syed Salahuddin of the United Jehad Council, said Islamic insurgents operating inside India had downed the craft with a Stinger missile.
Officials of both countries said again today that they want to prevent the conflict from escalating, and their prime ministers spoke on the telephone for the third time in a week. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry warned that "two nuclear powers should not be in a state of confrontation" and repeated calls for the United Nations to intervene in the dispute.
At the same time, however, the Pakistani government sponsored a mass celebration of today's anniversary of its nuclear tests, proclaiming it "Allah Is Great Day." Islamabad was filled with huge banners praising the country's "nuclear heroes" and officials expressed pride in the achievement.
Eager to prove Indian aggression, top military officials in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir took reporters on a four-hour trip from Skardu today to view the wreckage of Ahuja's MiG and visit the nearby village of Mashang, where they said Indian planes strafed two Pakistani artillery positions Wednesday.
The military authorities said Ahuja's plane and the other MiG crossed several miles into Pakistani airspace Thursday. They said the pilot of the other plane ejected and is in military custody.
At the site of the wreckage, officials pointed to a ridge several miles away and identified it as the line of control separating the two portions of Kashmir. They said the wreckage of the second plane was six to eight miles east in even more rugged terrain.
"The facts you see here vindicate our claims. India definitely has ill and nefarious designs," said Brig. Nusrat Sail, the region's army commander. He suggested India might seek to commit "genocide against the Kashmiri people" or attempt to retake the Siachen region, a strategic high-altitude area India briefly occupied in 1984.
The captured pilot, identified only as Flight Lt. Nachiketa, was shown to the reporters but not allowed to speak. He appeared unharmed and relaxed, leaning against a riverside bungalow's railing in Skardu, a Kashmiri military town. Officials said he was a prisoner but was being treated "as a guest" in accordance with Islamic custom.
The downed Indian MiGs were participating in airstrikes aimed at driving out about 600 Muslim insurgents that Indian authorities said had infiltrated India's portion of Kashmir from the Pakistani side and then taken up positions on high mountain ridges.
Sail, the Pakistani commander, denied India's charge that Pakistan is aiding insurgents who infiltrated into Indian Kashmir. They also denied Indian claims that "Afghan mercenaries" and Pakistani troops are among the infiltrators. He said the insurgents are "Kashmiri freedom fighters," and that India should "learn to live with them" or find a solution to the Kashmir dispute.
CAPTION: Pakistani soldiers hold up the tail of an Indian MiG fighter plane shot down Thursday in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.
CAPTION: The Indian pilot identified as Flight Lt. Nachiketa was being treated "as a guest," Pakistan said.