NEW DELHI - India accused Pakistan of using U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets in its raid in Kashmir, opening up a potential diplomatic row over the aircraft’s deployment by one American ally against another.
India said it scrambled MiG-21 Bison, Su-30 MKI and Mirage-2000 aircraft to intercept Pakistan’s jets and has evidence, including the wreckage of an AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile fired by a Pakistani F-16.
The Indian Air Force also tracked the so-called digital signatures of the aircraft, one of which was downed by India and fell in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor said in New Delhi on Thursday. Islamabad has denied it used F-16s in the raid or that it had lost one.
“There is enough evidence to show that F-16s were used in this mission and Pakistan is trying to hide this fact,” Kapoor said at a joint briefing by India’s armed forces. Pakistani “aircraft attempting to target military installations were intercepted by IAF fighter aircraft, which thwarted their plans.”
The U.S. sale of the Lockheed Martin Corp. jets to Pakistan mandates that they be flown only for counterterrorism operations, according to Rahul Bedi, a New Delhi-based analyst with Janes Information Services. The planes cannot be used against any other country, he said.
U.S. relations with Pakistan have worsened in recent years and in 2016 Congress refused to give subsidies for Pakistan to buy new F-16s. Then last year U.S. President Donald Trump cut some $2 billion in security aid to the country, claiming that Islamabad has been doing little to clamp down on insurgent groups.
The nuclear-armed nations are in a tense military standoff since India said its jets launched airstrikes to destroy insurgent bases inside Pakistan. The target was a camp run by the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group, which claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 suicide car bombing in Kashmir that killed 40 members of India’s security forces. Tuesday’s attack by India prompted Pakistan to retaliate the next day.
Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for Pakistan’s military, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.