Islamabad / Srinagar: The United States said it was trying to find out if Pakistan used US-built F-16s to shoot down an Indian warplane, potentially in violation of US agreements, as the confrontation between the neighbors appeared nuclear weapons.
Pakistan and India participated in an air combat this week in which an IAF pilot was captured in Pakistan in an incident that alarmed world powers and sparked fears of a war.
A Pakistani military spokesman on Wednesday denied India’s claims that Pakistan used F-16s.
Pakistan returned the captured pilot on Friday in a high-profile delivery that Islamabad touted as a “gesture of peace,” which appeared to significantly reduce tensions, but both sides remain on high alert.
In the Line of Control (LoC), there was relative calm in the last 24 hours, said both armies on Sunday. However, the Indian security forces said they were carrying out important operations against militancy in Kashmir and that they had shot dead two militants.
The US embassy in Islamabad said Sunday it was investigating reports that Pakistan used F-16 aircraft to shoot down the Indian pilot, a possible violation of Washington’s military sales agreements that limit the way Pakistan can use airplanes .
“We are aware of these reports and we are looking for more information,” said a spokesman for the Embassy of the United States. “We take all allegations of improper use of defense articles very seriously.”
While Pakistan has denied the use of F-16 aircraft, it has not specified which aircraft it used, although it assembles Chinese-designed JF-17 fighter jets on its ground.
Pakistan has a long history of buying US military hardware. Especially in the years after 2001, when Islamabad was seen as a key partner in the US-led War on Terror. Pakistan bought several batches of F-16 aircraft, built by Lockheed Martin Corp, of Washington before relations deteriorated and the United States cut subsidized sales in 2016.
It is not clear what exactly these so-called “end user agreements” prevent Pakistan from doing. “The government of the United States does not comment or confirm pending investigations of this nature,” the United States Embassy added.
On Thursday, representatives of the Indian Air Force, the Army and the Navy showed the media what they called an air-to-air missile that can only be fired from F-16 aircraft.
A Pakistani military spokesman told reporters on Wednesday that Pakistani planes “locked” India’s targets to demonstrate their ability to counterattack India, but then opted to shoot in an empty field where there would be no casualties.
Pakistan said its mission on Wednesday was in retaliation for India’s violation of its airspace and sovereignty the previous day, when Indian planes bombed a forest area near the northern city of Balakot. India said it hit militants training camps, but Islamabad denied there were such camps.