The United States (US) government has declined to share any information with India after New Delhi informed American officials of the use of F-16 fighter jets by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in its attempted air strike on Indian military installations on February 27.
“Soon after we were informed by the Indian side about Pakistan using F-16 aircraft on February 27, we informed the Indians that we will not be sharing any information on the subject as it is a bilateral matter between the US and Pakistan,” a US official told The Sunday Express on condition of anonymity.
The official said there is an underlying logic to this position which the Indian side appreciates: “If a third country tomorrow wants information about the C130 or C17 or Apaches that the IAF uses, our answer would be the same. It is a bilateral matter between India and the US.”
According to the US official, while India shared inputs which suggested the use of F-16 fighter jets by Pakistan, it has neither presented any evidence nor asked for any inputs about the shooting down of an F-16 by the IAF on February 27. He said the only evidence he has seen was “what was presented in the Indian media”.
To show that Pakistan used the American F-16s, Delhi shared evidence such as call signs associated with PAF F-16s, and specific details of the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air To Air Missile (AMRAAM) used by the intruding fighting falcons. But no AWACS pictures or radar images were shared with the US, for reasons of IAF’s operational security.
The statement was made after reports that the US sold F-16 fighters to Pakistan on the condition that they would be used only in a defensive role, and the PAF had used them for an air strike targeting Indian military installations.
“As regards how to use F-16, in what context (they) were used or not — because at that point of time our entire Air Force was airborne — it remains between Pakistan and the US to see how the MoUs (memorandums of understanding) regarding the use of F-16 have been adhered to or otherwise,” Pakistan DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor was quoted as having said.
Pakistan’s air strike in Nowshera sector came a day after the IAF conducted air strikes at Balakot. In the aerial combat that followed, IAF lost a Mig-21 and its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was taken captive — he was later released. Based on circumstantial evidence available, IAF has asserted that it shot down a F-16 fighter jet, which has not been acknowledged by Pakistan.