New Delhi, Feb 28 (IANS) India on Thursday presented the first evidence in public to show that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) used F-16s to drop bombs at an Indian military installation near the LoC, saying the forces were prepared, but there was palpable relief at the scheduled return of captured pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who became the poster boy of the two-day hostilities.
In a sign of de-escalation, India did not spell out its future course of military action.
India said it has the evidence to show destruction of a target in Balakot on Tuesday in an air strike. However, it refused to hazard a guess about the casualties in the terror camp. The decision to show the evidence will be taken by the political leadership, said Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor who was one of the officers in the integrated service press conference held on Thursday to share first operational details of the events of the last two days.
The briefing, which was to be held in the afternoon, was delayed following annoucement about the release of the Indian pilot by Pakistan.
The service officers said the forces have enough evidence of successfully implementing what they wanted to in bombing a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) terror camp. “Whatever we planned, we have got it. It is for the government and top leadership to present evidence. It will be premature to talk about casualties,” said AVM Kapoor in reply to a question as to how many terrorists were killed in Tuesday’s action in Balakot and what was the damage caused.
AVM Kapoor, assistant chief of staff space operations, said Wing Commander Abhinandan was being released under Geneva Convention.
Sharing details of an air raid by PAF on the LoC on Wednesday morning, Kapoor said that a large pack of PAF’s F-16, JF-17 Thunders and Mirages had come to attack Indian military installations which was repulsed by IAF’s Mirages, Mig-21 Bisons and Su-30s. In the engagement, an F-16 was shot down and IAF lost an Mig-21. Pilot Abhinandan’s parachute drifted towards Pakistan-held Kashmir.
Calling Pakistan’s bluff that F-16s were not used in the raid, IAF produced a piece of an Amraam missile which landed in an Indian military compound. The missile is exclusive to F-16. The IAF also identified F-16s through electronic signature.
Speaking about the escalation in the ceasefire violations in the last two days, Major General Surender Singh Mahal said the Army was giving a befitting response.
To a question whether India considered Pakistan Air Force targeting Indian military installations as a declaration of war on India, Major General Mahal said: “We continue to maintain strict vigilance along the Line of Control and International Border and the anti-aircraft weapons systems are on standby and so are our mechanised forces”.
The Army officer said as long as Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists “we will continue to target agencies which are inimical to India.”
Rear Admiral Dalbir Singh Gujral said the Navy was also on a high state of alert. “I can assure you a resolute and strong response by the Indian Navy. We –the Army, Navy and Air Force — stand as one to ensure safety and security of the nation and our citizens,” he said.