Irrelevant whether Indian planes that violated LoC were targeted by F-16s or JF-17s: ISPR

The military’s media wing on Monday said that it was meaningless to question whether Pakistan used JF-17 Thunder aircraft or US-built F-16 jets to shoot down two Indian Air Force (IAF) warplanes that violated Pakistani airspace on February 27, saying Pakistan has the right to use any of its ability for its defence.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in its statement sought to address repeated claims by the Indian government and media that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had used F-16 jets in the air battle with Indian jets and that a Pakistani F-16 jet was shot down by Indian pilots.

“The February 27 incident has become a part of history,” the ISPR statement said, explaining that PAF JF-17 Thunders jets had carried out strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) that day from inside the Pakistani airspace, in response to the Indian strikes in Balakot.

Later, when two Indian jets violated the LoC after the Pakistani strikes, they were shot down by the PAF.

“Whether these two Indian jets were targeted by F-16 [jet] or JF-17… this question is meaningless,” the ISPR said.

“When the Indian planes crossed [the LoC] all of PAF’s airplanes including F-16s were airborne,” the statement further said, recalling that the PAF had shot down both the Indian jets “in its defence”.

The military’s media wing emphasised that India could “pick any jet of its choice according to its wishes” but that would not change the end result of the dogfight that took place in February.

“Even if F-16 [jet] was used [by Pakistan], two Indian jets were targeted.

“Pakistan reserves the right to use its every capability for its defence however it wishes,” the ISPR concluded.

Following the conflict between the two countries in February, India had claimed that the PAF had used the F-16 warplane to target Indian military installations after crossing the LoC. For “proof” a piece of an apparent missile was shown, which the Indian media said could only have been used by an F-16.

It also claimed that before an Indian plane was shot down and its pilot captured by Pakistani forces, an IAF MiG Bison had shot down a PAF F-16 aircraft. Pakistan had denied the Indian claims.

New Delhi had insisted that Pakistan’s alleged use of F-16 against India meant that Islamabad stood in violation of a 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. However, Dawn had reported last month that Washington while providing F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad not only acknowledged the aircraft’s “deterrence value” to Pakistan in a future conflict with India but also noted that it could prevent a nuclear clash between the two neighbours.

Also, New York Times journalist Maria Abi-Habib had quoted US sources as saying “if India entered Pakistani airspace for a second day, and Pakistan used the [F-16] jet defensively, the contract wasn’t violated. But, if Pakistan used an F-16 to attack India first, then deal was violated.”

The ISPR statement comes two days after India reportedly shared “critical evidence” with the US that the PAF had used F-16 fighters to strike targets in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, according to a Hindustan Times report.

Quoting unnamed government officials, the newspaper said India had shared evidence, including call signs associated with PAF F-16s and “specific details” of the AIM-120-C5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAMs) which New Delhi alleged Pakistan had used, with the US through “institutionalised intelligence channels”.

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