WASHINGTON – The United States will not share any information with India about Pakistan’s F-16 aircraft as “it is a bilateral matter” between the two countries, according to a US official. “Soon after we were informed by the Indian side
WASHINGTON – The United States will not share any information with India about Pakistan’s F-16 aircraft as “it is a bilateral matter” between the two countries, according to a US official.
“Soon after we were informed by the Indian side about Pakistan using F-16 aircraft on February 27, we informed the Indians that we will not be sharing any information on the subject as it is a bilateral matter between the US and Pakistan,” the US official was quoted by The Sunday Express as saying in its report.
Highlighting the underlying logic that if a third country tomorrow wants information about the C130 or C17 or Apaches that the Indian air force (IAF) uses, the US official said “our answer would be the same”. “It is a bilateral matter between India and the US.”
The report further quoted the US official as saying that New Delhi has so far neither presented any evidence nor asked for any inputs about the “shooting down” of an F-16 by the IAF on February 27. He [the US official] said the only evidence he has seen was “what was presented in the Indian media,” it added.
To show that Pakistan used the American F-16s, India presented parts showing the cover and serial number markings of a fired AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air To Air Missile (AMRAAM) which can only be fired from an F-16 aircraft. But no AWACS pictures or radar images were shared with the US, for reasons of IAF’s “operational security”.
New Delhi made up its claim based on reports that the US sold F-16 fighters to Pakistan on the condition that they would be used only in a defensive role, and the PAF had used them for an air strike targeting Indian military installations.
But Pakistan’s military spokesman, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor, clarified: “As regards how to use F-16, in what context (they) were used or not — because at that point of time our entire Air Force was airborne — it remains between Pakistan and the US to see how the MoUs (memorandums of understanding) regarding the use of F-16 have been adhered to or otherwise.”
Earlier, US officials have confirmed that they have counted the number of Pakistan Air Force F-16s in service and can say that none were lost to the Indian Air Force on Feb 27 this year.
After the Pulwama suicide bombing by a young Muslim man born and bred in India-held Kashmir killed at least 40 paramilitary personnel on Feb 14 last and a claim of responsibility was purportedly made by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, India launched air strikes against an alleged JeM camp, a religious seminary, in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Feb 26.
While the Indian side claims to have inflicted heavy loss of life, killing up to 300 alleged fighters belonging to JeM, Pakistan denied the claim, saying that the IAF warplanes were forced to drop their payload when confronted by Pakistani interceptors and only damaged some trees.
However, Pakistan appeared determined to answer in kind to a violation of its airspace and sovereignty by its eastern neighbour and the very next day avowedly first locked on to Indian military and administration targets before firing on uninhabited ground in the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK).
At some point during this operation, IAF planes that were also airborne, flew across the Line of Control towards Pakistan and were engaged by the PAF which claimed shooting down both.
One downing of a MiG-21 Bison was verified as its wreckage was found on the Pakistan side and its pilot IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured after he ejected over Azad Kashmir. Pakistan’s military spokesman suggested that the other plane possibly a SU-30 fell on the Indian side.
Some 60 hours after the Indian wing commander was handed back to India, sections of their media started to claim that before being hit himself the Indian flier had also shot down a PAF F-16, a claim contemptuously dismissed by Pakistan.
But more than the Indian authorities, sections of the Indian media continue to propagate the myth that indeed a Pakistani F-16 had been downed.
The Indian media also tried its best to play down the crash of an IAF Mi-17 helicopter – possibly hit by the MiG-21 Bison flown by Abhinandan – that claimed the lives of seven servicemen.