A new report from the US has said that India did not shoot down the Pakistani F-16 fighter jet during the aerial dogfight in February, as was originally claimed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A report by the Foreign Policy website said that U.S. personnel had recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing.
The report went on to add, “It is possible that in the heat of combat, Varthaman, flying a vintage MiG-21 Bison, got a lock on the Pakistani F-16, fired, and genuinely believed he scored a hit. But the count, conducted by U.S. authorities on the ground in Pakistan, sheds doubt on New Delhi’s version of events, suggesting that Indian authorities may have misled the international community about what happened that day.”
The website quoted Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, as saying, “As details come out, it looks worse and worse for the Indians. It looks increasingly like India failed to impose significant costs on Pakistan, but lost a plane and a helicopter of its own in the process.”
The claim of Indian Air Force Officer Wing Commander Varthaman shooting down the F-16 fighter jet was first made by pro-government Indian TV channels. But Modi himself confirmed the news later during an interview with Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami in March. When asked if Wing Commander Abhinandan brought down the F-16 fighter jet, Modi had replied in the affirmative.
Wing Commander Abhinandan was flying a MiG 21 before his fighter aircraft fell inside the neighbouring country’s territory. He was captured by the Pakistani military. However, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had later announced inside his country’s parliament that he was going to release the captured Indian Air Force officer as a ‘peace gesture.’
The Indian Air Force on 28 February had displayed the cover of an AMRAAM missile fired from Pakistani F-16 aircrafts. They had said that the Pakistani’s used an F-16 to target Indian military installations in Jammu and Kashmir.