New Delhi: Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa asserted Monday that the Indian Air Force “bombed” the target it intended to in Balakot, Pakistan, and that a MiG-21 Bison indeed shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16.
Speaking to reporters in Coimbatore, the air chief added that the IAF is not in the business of counting human casualties, and it was for other agencies to do so. He said the government would give the casualty numbers of the Balakot strike.
Dhanoa also refused to comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark that had India got the Rafale jets, the outcome would have been different. The Prime Minister seemed to have been referring to the dogfight in which one MiG-21 Bison was shot down last Wednesday. However, Dhanoa, who did not get into details of the dogfight, said it was an “ongoing operation”.
Countering Pakistani propaganda
The air chief said post-operation analysis showed the IAF had hit the target intended.
“If we plan to hit the target, then we hit the target. If we dropped bombs in jungles, there is no need for him (Pakistan Air Force) to respond,” Dhanoa told reporters in Coimbatore.
The air chief’s remarks come at a time when Pakistan has unleashed a propaganda war, saying that IAF bombs fell in the jungles and there were no casualties. The Pakistan military has organised trips to Balakot for journalists and showed craters and some destroyed trees to buttress its point.
However, even though locals did tell the visiting media delegation about the presence of a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp nearby, none of the journalists were allowed to see the camp. Journalists who have visited the site shown by Pakistan say the road leading up to the seminary has been closed down by Pakistan Army.
India had struck Jaish camps in Balakot on 26 February, 12 days after the terror group claimed responsibility for the deadly Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
Replying to a separate question on what the target was, he referred to Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale’s statement, which had mentioned the main training camp of JeM.
Asked about the number of casualties, Dhanoa said: “The IAF is not in a position to clarify how many people were the casualties. We can’t count how many people have died. It all depends on how many people were there. We see if we have hit the target.”
On Pakistan using F-16
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa refused to get into the operational details, but said that Pakistan did use F-16 fighter jets in its 27 February strike across the LoC, and one of them was shot down.
“We have got pieces of AMRAAM missile in our territory. Obviously, they have lost an F-16 aircraft in contract. Will be a violation,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s end-user clause with the US, under which F-16s are not be used in offensive operations.
Asked why the MiG-21 Bison was used in the operation, Dhanoa said the aircraft was in the IAF’s inventory, and hence will be used.
He added that the MiG-21 Bison is an upgraded aircraft with better radar and missiles than the previous ones.
Asked when Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who spent nearly 60 hours in Pakistani custody, will get back to flying, Dhanoa said it all depends on his medical fitness.
“Once he gets a medical fitness (clearance), then only he will get into a fighter plane,” the Air Chief Marshal said.