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Pigeon caught in India-Pakistan trust gap

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
  • Residents bring bird to police
  • Suspicion is raised that it might be spying for Pakistan
  • Had Pakistani address stamped on its wings
  • Bird handed over to wildlife authorities
  • India
  • Pakistan

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- A humble pigeon has just flown into a herd of pouncing cats!

The white-colored bird had to spend time at an Indian police station along the country's sensitive border with Pakistan as speculation grew it could be a spy on a mission from the neighboring nation.

Officers say the pigeon was captured by residents of a border town in Punjab state's Amritsar district.

They found it "peculiar", said district police chief Gurmeet Singh Chohan.

A Pakistani address stamped on its wings worried residents last week who then brought the bird to the police.

"It was kept at the police station for a day and now we have handed it over to wildlife (authorities)," Chohan said.

He denied news reports that the pigeon was "detained" and became subject of a probe.

"In an era of spy planes and satellites, the Amritsar (rural) police have detained a white pigeon that could have been -- the police claim -- used as a Pakistani spy," wrote the Hindustan Times in a page-one story Saturday.

But Chohan claimed the spy theory was only "speculation" on the part of local residents and that authorities did not endorse it.

He also accused the media of misreporting the police role in connection with the captured bird, which he insisted was just fed by the officers.

The Indian Express newspaper carried a picture showing a man holding the pigeon in his palm in front of a lock-up.

But Chohan downplayed the photograph as a shot staged by camera crews.

Pigeon-racing is a common rural sport in the Punjab region divided between India and Pakistan, he said.

Kite-flying is another common passion. "On many occasions in the past, kites from across the border too have come in," Chohan said.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, since the partition of the Asian subcontinent in 1947.

Both nuclear-armed nations are in a fresh bid to mend their ties strained after the 2008 terror attack on Mumbai that India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

In April, Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met at Thimphu, Bhutan in what was seen as a thaw in the troubled relations between their countries.

At a news conference in New Delhi last week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh noted that both countries needed to build trust for better relations.

"The trust deficit is the biggest problem and unless we tackle the trust deficit, we cannot move to substantive negotiations," Singh remarked. "... At Thimphu, (Pakistan) Prime Minister (Yousaf Raza) Gilani and I have agreed that trust deficit is a major problem blocking progress in the direction of moving forward...," he said.