Washington: United States officials did a count of Islamabad’s F-16 jets recently and found that none were missing, contradicting India’s claims that it shot down a Pakistani fighter jet amid heightened tensions between both countries after the Pulwama attack, according to a report published on the Foreign Policy magazine’s website on Thursday.
Following the conflict between the two countries in February, India had claimed that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had used F-16s to target Indian military installations after crossing the Line of Control. As “proof”, what looked like a piece of an AMRAAM missile was shown, which Indian media insisted could only have been fired by a Pakistani F-16.
Indian media also claimed that before the Indian plane was shot down and its pilot captured by Pakistani forces, an Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-21 Bison had shot down a PAF F-16 aircraft.
According to a Dawn report, Pakistan had rubbished the Indian reports, making a counter-claim that two aircraft did indeed go down, but both belonged to India. One crashed on Pakistani soil, while the other managed to return to Indian occupied Kashmir.
New Delhi had also insisted that Pakistan’s alleged use of F-16s against India meant that Islamabad stood in violation of its sales agreement with the US. The US State Department had refused to take a position on India’s complaint against Pakistan over using F-16s in the air battle.
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), reacting to the Foreign Policy report said: “Allah be praised, truth always prevails. Time for India to speak truth about false claims & actual losses on their side including the second aircraft shot down by Pakistan.”
According to the new report, which quotes two senior US defence officials who have knowledge of the count, one of the senior US defence officials told Foreign Policy that Pakistan had invited the US to count its F-16 planes after the incident “as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised”.
Foreign Policy added that Washington generally requires countries it strikes such agreements with to allow US officials to inspect equipment on a regular basis and to ensure that it is accounted for and safe.
The official explained that some of the aircraft were not immediately available for inspection after the Pak-India back-and-forth, so it took US personnel a few weeks to account for all the jets. When the count was finally conducted, all F-16s employed by the PAF were accounted for, Foreign Policy reported.
An associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Vipin Narang, told that although the news likely won’t affect Indian voters, it may affect Delhi’s dealings with Pakistan in the future.
“As details come out, it looks worse and worse for the Indians,” Narang said. “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.”