Friday Apr 05, 2019
US defense officials have debunked India’s claim that it shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in an aerial dogfight between the two sides in February.
Two senior US defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation told Foreign Policy magazine that US personnel recently counted Pakistan’s F-16s and found none missing.
The findings directly contradict the account of Indian Air Force officials, who said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman managed to shoot down a Pakistani F-16 before his own plane was downed by Pakistan Air Force, the publication states.
The count, conducted by US authorities on the ground in Pakistan, casts doubt on India’s version of events, suggesting that Indian authorities may have misled the international community about what happened that day, it adds.
According to Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, the details look worse and worse for India, just days before the start of the general elections there.
“As details come out, it looks worse and worse for the Indians,” Foreign Policy quoted Narang as saying. “It looks increasingly like India failed to impose significant costs on Pakistan, but lost a plane and a helicopter of its own in the process.”
One of the senior US defense officials said that Pakistan invited the United States to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised.
The count has been completed, and “all aircraft were present and accounted for,” the official said.
Tensions soared between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the February 14 suicide bombing in Pulwama, occupied Kashmir.
India piled the blame for Pulwama bombing on Pakistan without presenting any proof. The allegations were strongly refuted by Pakistan.
In response, India said it carried out on February 26 air strikes on what it called a militant training camp at Balakot inside Pakistan.
The Indian government was quick to take credit for a “successful" airstrike and put the death toll to over 300. Pakistani officials, as well as the locals, rejected the claims, inviting local and international media to visit the site of the so-called attack where around a dozen trees were the only “casualty”.
The Pakistan Air Force, in retaliatory action, downed two Indian aircraft the next day, capturing Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan who was then released as a peace gesture by Pakistan.