New Delhi, India India released a Zaire Airways plane on Sunday that was carrying arms and ammunition from Portugal to Sri Lanka, more than 24 hours after it was forced to land in southern India, the Press Trust of India said.
The Press Trust said the DC8 cargo plane took off from Trivandrum Airport in the early afternoon, local time, to resume its flight to Colombo.
The release of the aircraft was cleared by the central government, the agency said, to avoid increasing tensions further between India and Sri Lanka.
The plane, carrying arms and ammunition apparently intended for use against ethnic Tamil guerrillas in northern Sri Lanka, Saturday ran low on fuel and landed in the southern Indian city of Trivandrum, about 250 miles north of the Sri Lankan capital.
The aircraft, chartered from Zaire Airways, had been refueled, but then detained when Indian authorities learned the aircraft contained weapons and ammunition. The Indian Express newspaper reported the plane was carrying Portuguese made weapons and ammunition weighing more than 16 tons.
The crew, two Britons, one Belgian and one Syrian, were lodged in a hotel while the plane was kept under guard.
The plane was held as Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi met Sri Lankan National Security Minister Lilith Athulathmudali in New Delhi for talks on the ethnic violence in Sri Lanka.
Gandhi was reported to have reiterated India’s calls for a nonmilitary solution to the Sri Lankan government’s differences with the Tamils, who have strong ethnic and linguistic ties to the population of southern India.
Sri Lanka’s military efforts to subdue the Tamil militants, who are demanding a separate state, have caused increased friction with India.
Last month, India seized a Sri Lankan naval patrol boat and Sri Lanka held 17 Indian fishing boats until a trade was arranged.
Article extracted from this publication >> February 15, 1985