Foreign journalist doubts India’s narrative on F-16 use
Amidst an ongoing standoff between Pakistan and India, a New York Times journalist, Maria Abi-Habib, has pointed out that Islamabad may not have violated its F-16 sales agreement with Washington contrary to New Delhi’s claim even if the US fighter jets were involved in the downing of two Indian Air Force jets.
Tensions between the South Asian neighbours escalated following a suicide car bombing on February 14 that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
New Delhi accused Islamabad of harbouring the Jaish-e Mohammad group behind the attack, which Islamabad denied, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised a strong response.
Pakistan said the Indian planes missed whatever they were aiming at, and that nobody died in the attack outside Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
On March 2, Pakistan handed back a captured Indian pilot Abhinandan whose MiG-21 jet was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) during a clash over Kashmir on February 27 as two weeks of growing tensions between the two countries erupted into open hostilities.
Confirming the incident, New Delhi had complained the aircraft used by the PAF to ingress into Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) had included an F-16 which it claimed the Indian Air Force (IAF) had shot down. The PAF, however, had denied that F-16 jets were used India.
Indian insisted that Pakistan’s use of F-16 against India meant that Islamabad stood in violation of a sales agreement with the US, which allegedly restricts the fighter jets to be used for anti-terrorism sorties only.
But NYT’s South Asia correspondent in her tweets on Wednesday explained how Pakistan may not have committed any such violation even if it did use F-16s to shoot down Indian jets.
“The US says if Pakistan used an F-16 to shoot down an Indian MiG, it may not have violated sale agreement. India says deal limits Pakistan to use jets only for counter-terror operations,” Maria tweeted.
“The US officials are pushing back hard on India’s interpretation of their F-16 sale agreement with Pakistan. They say if India entered Pakistan airspace for a second day, and Pakistan used the jet defensively, the contract wasn’t violated.”
According to the journalist, “American officials at this moment say they are assessing if an F16 was used and in what manner.”