Islamabad (Web Desk): US defense officials have debunked India’s claim that it shot down a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16 on February 27, Foreign Policy magazine reported on Friday.
Two senior US defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation told the magazine that US personnel recently counted Pakistan’s F-16s and found none missing.
Foreign Policy quoted a US official as saying, “all aircraft were present and accounted for”.
The aircraft count disproves Indian Air Force (IAF) claims that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a Pakistani F-16 before his own plane was downed by a Pakistani missile.
The on ground, physical count conducted by US authorities not only casts doubt on the Indian claims but also suggests that India may have deliberately misled the international community.
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.