Islamabad denies on use of F-16 during recent aerial conflict with India. By Farooq Ganderbali


After Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out strikes against Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camps in Balakot, Pakistan on February 27, Pakistan has all but confirmed that its air force deployed an American-made F-16 fighter jet in its February 27 aerial conflict with India. The United States had provided F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad with a condition that it will act as a “deterrence value” to Pakistan in a future conflict with India so that it could prevent a nuclear clash between the two neighbours.

But Pakistan is taking advantage of the US’s reluctance to officially take note of whether it has violated curbs placed on it while purchasing it. The US State Department has said that it has taken note of the complaints from India and is watching the issue very closely.  Initially, Pakistan was in the denial mode, letting it be known that it had used the Chinese-made JF-17, and not American F-16.

But when Indian displayed the remnants of AMRAAM that can only be fired from an F-16, it went for flat denials. It also tried to say that the F-16 deployed was possibly bought from Jordan and not directly from the US that has not sold an F-16 to Pakistan for many years and eventually, returned the money the latter had deposited. In a new somersault, again taking advantage of the US not taking a firm stand, Pakistan has virtually confirmed that it did use F-16, but that there was no bar on using it against India as the deal.

It needs to be noted that the US was deeply engaged with Pakistan in fighting the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan and the disillusionment of the successive US administration at Pakistan’s abetting the Taliban and failure to deliver on terrorism had not yet set in. Moreover, the US was – as it remains – worried about a possible nuclear clash between the two South Asian neighbours.

In the present context, the US would not like to admit that F-16, its widest-selling combat jet was hit by Indian Air Force’s Mig-21, admittedly an old war horse designed six decades ago by Russians, but updated from time to time with the latest equipment and used to best effect by the IAF pilots. Old timers recall that the US had problems even during earlier India-Pakistan wars in 1965 and 1971, when inferior IAF fighters had shot down Sabre jets.

Any US administration must protect the interests of its powerful arms lobby, and Trump administration is not an exception.  Experts have noted that much of the Western media has chosen to disbelieve and even criticise Indian claims of having destroyed the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)-run madrassahs and terror-training centres at Balakot. It is not surprising that the Western media, among them the CNN, and the British newspapers chose to believe its local correspondents in Pakistan, taken to the site by the Pakistan authorities, filing reports without any cross-checking.

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