The Pakistani authorities have shut down the air space till March 5. On Monday, the authorities had said that Pakistan has fully reopened its airspace, days after it closed its skies to all air travel, leaving thousands stranded worldwide as tensions with nuclear arch-rival India soared.
The decision to close the airspace came last Wednesday after a rare aerial dogfight between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir ignited fears of all-out conflict, with world powers rushing to urge restraint.
Earlier today, IAF chief B S Dhanoa declined to comment on the death toll in the Balakot strike, saying it was for the government to provide details on the number of terrorists killed and the Air Force only sees if a target has been hit or not.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan on February 27 and released on March 1, would fly a fighter jet if he was fit, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said.
"We don't take chances with the medical fitness of a pilot," he said at a press conference in his first comments since the February 26 attack on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The Air Force, he said, is not in a position to clarify many people were inside. "We don't count human casualties. We count what targets we have hit or not hit," he said.
The bomb damage assessment that is done post a mission only calculates the target that has been hit or not hit, the air chief noted.
"We can't count how many people have died. That depends on how many people were there," Dhanoa said, adding that a statement on the number of terrorists killed will be made by the government.
Asked about reports suggesting that the bombs were dropped away from the target, he said, "Our report says otherwise." Referring to Pakistan using F-16 aircraft in its offensive against India last week, Dhanoa said, "I don't know what is the end-user agreement between America and Pakistan. If the end-user agreement was that they will not use it for offensive purposes, then I think they have violated that end-user agreement."
India, he said, has pieces of the AMRAAM missile which it displayed. "Obviously, I think they have lost an F-16 aircraft in that combat. So, obviously, they have been using that aircraft against us," he added.