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India’s narrative on Balakot strike crumbles as foreign journalist found loopholes

ISLAMABAD: With the passage of time more and more details about India’s alleged strike in Balakot on Jaish-e-Mohammad camp and the consequent standoff between Pakistan and India are coming up, leading to crumbling of the Indian narrative.

The international media is reporting on a daily basis about the standoff between Pakistan and India and the clash between the air forces of the two countries.

International media outlets and journalists are bringing forth may glaring loopholes in the Indian narrative. New Delhi’s narrative has almost collapsed and failed to withstand the scrutiny of neutral and independent foreign media.

New York Times journalist Maria Abi-Habib on Wednesday revealed that, contrary to India’s insistence, Pakistan may not have necessarily violated its F-16 sales agreement with the US even if it may have used the American-made fighter jets to shoot down Indian aircraft last week.

On Feb 27, Pakistan Air Force had flown into occupied Kashmir to demonstrate its capability to respond to Indian aggression, locked on to military targets, and then spared them. It had later shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace when they tried to give chase to Pakistani jets.

Indian officials, while admitting that Pakistani jets had engaged Indian military targets, had complained that the aircraft used by the PAF to ingress into occupied Kashmir had included an F-16. The Indian Air Force (IAF) had also claimed that it shot down the said F-16, and paraded the remains of an AIM-120 missile in an attempt to substantiate its claim.

New Delhi had insisted that Pakistan’s use of F-16 against India meant that Islamabad stood in violation of a sales agreement with the US, which reportedly restricts the fighter jets to be used for anti-terrorism activities alone.

However, Abi-Habib, the NYT’s South Asia correspondent, in a series of tweets explained how Pakistan may not have committed a violation of its sales agreement with the US even if it did use F-16s to shoot down Indian jets (which the PAF nonetheless says never happened).

“The US says if Pakistan used an F-16 to shoot down an Indian MiG, it may not have violated sale agreement,” she tweeted.

“They say if India entered Pakistani airspace for a second day, and Pakistan used the jet defensively, the contract wasn’t violated. But, if Pakistan used an F-16 to attack India first, then deal was violated.”

Citing weapons experts and officials, Abi-Habib also put a question mark on Indian Air Force’s claim that the AIM-120 missile’s remnant that was displayed by New Delhi was ‘proof’ of Pakistan’s use of an F-16 in the counter-strike to the Balakot incident.

She also said US officials still do not have sufficient reason to believe that an F-16 was shot down by India, as claimed by IAF.

Abi-Habib noted that “the West, particularly US, is really trying to bolster its alliance with India”. She said that the strengthening of its alliance with New Delhi is so important for Washington that it even offered to produce F-16 jets in India “as a sweetener”.

For the US to be cautious with Indian version of last week’s events, despite its newfound fondness of India, “is very interesting”, she added.

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