Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday accused the BJP of "whipping up war hysteria", saying its false claim of downing a Pakistani F-16 has "backfired", days after a leading American magazine claimed that none of the US-manufactured fighter jets of the PAF were missing. Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine reported on Thursday that American personnel recently counted the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16s and found none of the planes missing.
It quoted two senior US defence officials with direct knowledge of the situation. The Indian Air Force, however, stuck to its stand on Friday, saying that it had conclusive proof of shooting down a PAF F-16 on February 27.
Reacting to the Foreign Policy report, Prime Minister Khan took to Twitter to criticise the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). "The truth always prevails and is always the best policy. BJP's attempt to win elections through whipping up war hysteria and false claims of downing a Pak F-16 has backfired with US Defence officials also confirming that no F-16 was missing from Pakistan's fleet," he said in a tweet.
The Indian Air Force on February 28 displayed pieces of the AMRAAM missile, fired by a Pakistani F-16, as evidence to "conclusively" prove that Pakistan deployed US-manufactured F-16 fighter jets during an aerial raid targeting Indian military installations in Kashmir. Pakistan has denied that one of its planes had been downed by the IAF.
According to the magazine, Pakistan invited the US 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 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 a Pakistani missile," the report said.
Lara Seligman of the magazine later updated the story, saying "the F-16s Pakistan bought from Jordan have also been included in the count and even third-party transfers of US equipment must go through the US government". Reacting to the report, the IAF asserted that it had shot down an F-16 aircraft of the PAF on February 27 during aerial combat.
In a statement in New Delhi, the IAF said, "during the aerial engagement, one MiG 21 Bison of the IAF shot down an F-16 in Nowshera sector." IAF sources also said it has conclusive "circumstantial evidence" including wireless intercepts, signals and graphic captures from airborne warning and control system (AWACS) and electronic signatures to conclude that the F-16 jet was shot down during the aerial combat. On Friday, the Pakistani military called on India to "speak the truth" about the "actual losses".
(With inputs from agencies.)