WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD:The US government has declined to share with India information on the use of F-16 fighters by the Pakistan Air Force during a recent aerial battle with Indian aircraft purportedly near the disputed line of control over Kashmir, the Indian media reported.
“Soon after we were informed by the Indian side about Pakistan using F-16 aircraft on Feb 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 Indian Expressnewspaper.
The official said that India understood the US position, which was not India or Pakistan-specific. “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,” the official added.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) had complained to the Pentagon in March that Pakistan had violated the end-user agreement on F-16 by using the jets for offensive against India. The IAF also displayed parts of an AMRAAM beyond visual range air-to-air missile to prove its claim that Pakistan deployed US-made F-16 fighter jets during the Feb 27 dogfight with its aircraft.
Furthermore, India’s claim that one of its fighters shot down a Pakistan F-16 in an aerial battle in February appears to be wrong. Pakistan had categorically denied the Indian claim, saying that no F-16 fighters were used. It also rejected another Indian claim that the IAF shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet as totally baseless.
Foreign Policy, a US magazine, reported recently that a US official count of the Pakistani F-16s determined that none of them were “missing” and all the F-16 Fighting Falcons were “present and accounted for”. Two senior US defence officials with direct knowledge of the situation told the magazinethat US personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing.
One of the senior US defence officials with direct knowledge of the count said that Pakistan invited the US to physically count its F-16 aircraft after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised. Generally in such agreements, the US requires the receiving country to allow US officials to inspect the equipment regularly to ensure it is accounted for and protected. It was reported that Pakistan has a fleet of 76 F-16s, out of which 13 were acquired from Jordan.
Pakistan, however, shot down an Indian MiG-21 Bison fighter and also captured its pilot who was released on March 1 as a goodwill gesture telecast live on both Indian and Pakistani TV channels.