India hands over to US evidence of Pakistan's F-16 misuse
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India hands over to US evidence of Pakistan's F-16 misuse

Indian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told local media on Saturday that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had indeed used F-16 fighters in its February 27 strikes in Jammu and Kashmir’s Nowshera sector as part of attempts to retaliate an Indian Air Force (IAF) strike on a militant training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot the previous day. The Indian officials said the evidence of their claim, including call signs associated with PAF F-16 jets and specific details of the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air To Air Missile (AMRAAM) used by the PAF jets, had been shared with the US through intelligence channels. The details in missile debris from the February 27 strikes correspond to the consignment lot sold by the US to Pakistan, the officials added. Indian and Pakistani fighter jets staged tit-for-tat cross-border raids last month as they wrangled over a bomb attack in the Indian-controlled Kashmir that New Delhi said was conducted by the Pakistani Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group and left at least 40 Indian paramilitary forces dead. Pakistan said it had shot down two Indian MiG-21 Bison fighter jets and captured one of their pilots during the dogfight. Islamabad later handed over the pilot, identified in reports as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, to India. India also said that it had downed a Pakistani F-16, a claim dismissed by Islamabad. The unnamed Indian government officials doubled down on Delhi's claim, saying inspections of a recovered engine cowling found in Kashmir showed that it had nothing to do with Varthaman’s MiG-21 Bison and most certainly belonged to a PAF F-16 Fighting Falcon. Photographs of the wreckage show a part without rivets while the MiG-21 engine cowling has rivets at multiple places, they said. Major General Asif Ghafoor, chief spokesperson of the Pakistan Armed Forces, who had initially denied the use of F-16s in the Nowshera fight on February 27, contradicted his own remarks in a March 24 interview with Sputnik in Islamabad, where he implied that the F-16 had been scrambled at the time and that his country was discussing the matter with Washington. “As regards to 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,” General Ghafoor was quoted as saying. The alleged move by the Pakistani Air Force could amount to a violation of US agreements since Washington sold F-16 fighters to Islamabad on condition that they will not be used in aggression against any other country but only in the war against terrorist outfits. Pakistan bought several batches of the Lockheed Martin F-16s from Washington before relations between the two sides soured over the fight against the Taliban and then US President Barack Obama cut off subsidized sales to Islamabad in 2016. India investigating possible friendly fire in chopper crash Meanwhile, Indian media reported on Friday that investigators had found that an Indian air defense missile had been fired shortly before the crash of a Mi-17 V5 helicopter at Budgam, near Srinagar in the disputed region of Kashmir on February 27, which left six air force personnel and a civilian dead. The Indian daily newspaper Economic Times said the investigators were examining the sequence of events which preceded the crash. The final moments prior to the crash, including whether the IFF (Identity, Friend or Foe) systems were switched on or not, are being carefully looked at to determine what went wrong, according to ET sources. Based the report, the investigation is seeking to determine “if multiple layers of safeguards meant to protect assets from friendly fire failed and how systems need to be improved to prevent any such incident in the future”. Sources told the daily that the missile, which is believed to be of Israeli origin, was activated after an air defense alert was issued, signalling presence of Pakistan Air Force jets along the border. Unnamed sources claimed that the alert meant Pakistani jets may have breached the border. “A slow moving target like the Mi-17 helicopter could potentially be mistaken for a low flying armed UAV homing into an air base.” Eyewitnesses have reported that a loud explosion was heard in the air before the chopper crashed in a trail of smoke, indicating that a possible catastrophic external event contributed to the incident. The Russian-made Mil Mi-17 is one of the world's sturdiest military helicopters in service and is not usually prone to technical faults of catastrophic nature. Sources in the air force told ET they have made it clear that the military would not shy away from initiating court-martial proceedings against personnel if they were found blameworthy in the inquiry. The incident took place on the same day that the Pakistan’s military shot down two Indian aircraft in the Islamabad-administered side of Kashmir and arrested one of the pilots on the ground. Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory. Indian troops are in constant clashes with armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan. India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the restive frontier in an attempt to launch attacks. Pakistan strongly denies the allegations.

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