WASHINGTON: Apparently, it was a JF-17 fighter jet that brought down an Indian warplane in Azad Jammu and Kashmir last week, says a CNN report as an American diplomat said Washington wanted to know if Pakistan used a US-built F-16 jet to shoot the plane.
The JF-17 is a Chinese-designed fighter jet produced jointly by Pakistan and China.
“It may have been one of those jets that on Wednesday downed an Indian Air Force fighter plane, leading to the capture by Pakistan of an Indian pilot” Abhinandan Varthaman, said the CNN report released this weekend. The report also noted that the Indian jet was a MiG-21, a Soviet-designed aircraft, which has been in service since the 1960s. The MiG-21 “forms the backbone” of the Indian Air Force, which has about 200 of those in its inventory.
Nishank Motwani, a visiting fellow at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, Acton, Australia, told CNN that Indian pilots called the plane “a flying coffin” because it had been involved in multiple accidents.
“And that illustrates a problem for India. While it has a massive military budget, a significant chunk of that goes toward maintenance of existing equipment, and salaries,” the report added.
The report included a quote from a recent inquiry by an Indian parliament committee, saying: “Modernisation gets a mere 14 per cent (of allocated funds), which is grossly inadequate.”
A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Islamabad told the Reuters news agency on Sunday that the United States was “seeking information” on whether Pakistan used US-built F-16 jets to down the Indian warplane, which may violate the F-16 sale agreements between Washington and Islamabad.
Pakistan said it did not use F-16s in shooting down the Indian fighter jet when it crossed the Line of Control. Islamabad also said that this was an act of self-defence.
“We are aware of these reports and are seeking more information,” the US Embassy spokesperson said. “We take all allegations of misuse of defence articles very seriously.”
The US often inserts restrictions on how its exported military hardware can be used through so-called end-user agreements.
India claimed that AIM-120C-5 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile had been fired recently, showing that F-16 Viper fighter jets were “at least involved” in recent strikes in the region. Pakistan rejected the Indian claim as completely baseless. India also claimed that it shot down one of the Vipers.
Pakistan rejected this claim as well, saying that since it had not used any F-16 jets, the question of one being shot down did not arise.
Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2019