Amid the opposition parties and Pakistan cornering the government over a US media report which denied that India shot down a Pakistani F-16, the United States defence department has said it was “not aware” of any investigation that was conducted to ascertain if Pakistan had lost an F-16 during an aerial dogfight on February 27.
The Foreign Policy magazine had on Friday reported that American personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and none of them were missing, contradicting India’s claim that one of its war planes downed an F-16 during the aerial dogfight.
The report was strongly denied by New Delhi which claimed that they have evidence that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman indeed shot down Pakistan Air Force F-16 aircraft 7-8 km inside Pakistan Occupied Area in Sabzkot area.
The media report had quoted senior but unidentified US defence sources saying that no F-16 was missing.
Distancing itself from the media report, Pentagon made it clear that they did not publicly comment on details of government-to-government agreements, especially on articles related to defence.
"It is important to note that since January 2018, the United States government has suspended security assistance to Pakistan," read a staement from the US defence department.
The report said that evidence also suggests that Pakistan's F-16s were involved in the aerial battle with the Indian Air Force and only the F-16 can shoot a US-made AIM-120 air-to-air missile.
Reacting to the report, The Indian Air Force Friday asserted that it had shot down an F-16 aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force 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."
Citing the media report, 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"
"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.
Inspections of defence equipment sold to its foreign buyers are routinely carried out by the United States. According to the sale agreement, Pakistan is prohibited from flying F-16s out of the country without giving a heads-up to the United States.