Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for “whipping up war hysteria” over claims that India shot down a Pakistani F-16 during a standoff in February, saying the truth is always the best policy.
U.S.-based Foreign Policy magazine, citing U.S. officials, said all of Pakistan’s F-16 combat jets had been accounted for, contradicting an Indian air force assessment that it had shot down one of the jets.
“The truth always prevails and is always the best policy,” Khan said in a Tweet. “BJP’s attempt to win elections through whipping up war hysteria and false claims of downing a Pak F 16 has backfired with US Defense officials also confirming that no F16 was missing from Pakistan’s fleet.”
Nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan engaged in an aerial battle over the disputed region of Kashmir a day after Indian jets crossed over into Pakistan to attack a suspected camp of anti-India militants.
An Indian jet was brought down during the fight and its pilot captured when he ejected on the Pakistani side of the border. He was later released.
India said it too had shot down a Pakistani aircraft and the air force displayed pieces of a missile that it said had been fired by a Pakistani F-16 before it went down.
Foreign Policy said in a report published on Thursday two U.S. defense officials with direct knowledge of the matter said U.S. personnel had done a count of Pakistan’s F-16s and found none missing.
Details of the India-Pakistan air engagement have not been fully provided by either side. If the U.S. report turns out to be true, it would be a further blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had said that India had taught Pakistan a lesson, ahead of elections next week.
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