Pak to release IAF pilot today
NEW DELHI, Feb 28: The Army, Navy and the Air Force today said they are in a heightened state of readiness and fully prepared to deal with any provocation by Islamabad, notwithstanding Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement of releasing the captured IAF pilot as a “gesture of peace”.
In a first joint media briefing after Pakistani fighter jets targeted Indian military installations, the three forces said Pakistan has escalated the tension by targeting these installations in an aerial raid on Wednesday and India was ready for a befitting reply to any eventualities.
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“The Pakistan Air Force aircraft attempting to target military installations were intercepted by IAF fighter aircraft which thwarted their plans. PAF bombs have fallen in Indian Army formation compounds, they were unable to cause any damage to our military installations,” said Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor, assistant chief of Air Staff.
He said in the aerial combat, one F-16 of Pakistan Air Force was shot down by an IAF MiG-21 Bison. The F-16 crashed and fell across the LoC in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
The IAF official said there have been many factually incorrect statements made by Pakistan since its aerial raid targeting Indian military installations Wednesday.
He said there has been “blatant disinformation” campaign by Pakistan that two IAF aircrafts were shot down by Pakistan and three pilots were downed.
“This figure was later revised to two IAF aircrafts and two pilots. The fact, however, is that Indian Army units had reported sighting two parachutes falling in the PoK which were of two F-16 pilots shot down by the IAF MiG-21 Bison.
“Pakistan later in the evening changed its statement to say that one Indian pilot was in their custody,” he said.
He also rejected Pakistan’s claims that they intentionally dropped weapons in open space where there was no human presence or military posts.
“The fact is that the PAF aircraft targeted military installations. However, they were intercepted by IAF fighter aircraft that thwarted their plans. Although PAF bombs have fallen in Indian Army Formation compounds however they were unable to cause any significant damage to our military installations due to swift IAF response,” he said.
The IAF official also rejected Pakistan’s contention that no F-16s were used in the operation and no Pakistani plane was downed by IAF.
“There is enough evidence to show that F-16s were used in this mission and Pakistan is trying to hide this fact. Also, parts of AMRAAM Air to Air Missile which is carried only on the F-16s in PAF were recovered East of Rajouri within the Indian territory,” he said.
The IAF also showed a piece of the AMRAAM missile at the news briefing.
“The fact remains that one F-16 of PAF was shot down by an IAF MiG-21 Bison aircraft,” said the Air Vice Marshal.
He said Pakistani aircraft package which was part of the Wednesday’s operation comprised F-16s and JF 17s and perhaps some Mirages and that India countered them with Mig 21 Bisons, Mirage 2000s and Sukhoi 30s.
Sources said Pakistan deployed around 24 aircraft out of which three came inside Indian airspace.
Asked about India’s assessment about damage caused to the JeM terrorist training camp inside Pakistan during India’s airstrike on Tuesday, the Air Vice Marshal said, “There is fairly credible evidence with us which proves that there was damage to the camps.”
“The weapons hit the intended target and they caused damage that was intended. However, it will be premature to say that what was the number of casualties we have been able to inflict on those camps and the number of those killed,” he said.
There were reports that around 350 terrorist were killed in the strike on the JeM camp at Balakote in Pakistan.
The IAF official said it was for the higher leadership of the Government to decide how and when to present the evidence of damage to the camp or whether to present them or not.
Addressing the journalists, Army’s Additional Director General of Military Operations Maj. Gen Surinder Singh Mahal said the ground based air defence weapon systems of the Army have been put on alert along the Line of Control and some parts of the International Border.
“Mechanised formations too have been placed on standby. I wish to assure the nation that we are fully prepared and in a heightened state of readiness to respond to any provocation by Pakistan,” he said.
The Indian Navy said it has been on a high state of readiness and remains poised in all the three dimensions – on surface, under-sea and in air to deter, prevent and defeat any misadventure by Pakistan in the maritime domain.
“I can assure of a resolute, swift and strong response when needed. We stand as one with the Army and Air Force to ensure the safety and security of the nation and our citizens,” Director General of Naval Operations Rear Admiral Dalbir Singh Gujral said.
Earlier, Pakistan announced today that it will free captured IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as a peace gesture, hours after a strong message from India demanding his unconditional release, largely de-escalating tensions between the two neighbours.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s surprise announcement to a joint session of Parliament, that Varthaman will be released on Friday, was greeted by loud thumping of desks by the lawmakers. Earlier, his Foreign Minister said Khan was also willing to talk to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the phone to talk peace.
“In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow (Friday), and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody,” Khan said.
The pilot bailed out and landed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) after his MiG 21 was brought down during a fierce aerial engagement on Wednesday with Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighters on the Line of Control(LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, a day after India bombed terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp in Pakistan. Reports said that the wing commander shot down a Pakistan F-16 before being hit. (PTI)
Pak to release IAF pilot today