Islamabad: Pakistan military Friday called on India to "speak the truth" about the "actual losses" in an aerial dogfight between the nuclear-armed neighbours, after a leading US magazine questioned India's claim that one of its fighter jets shot down a Pakistani F-16 on February 27.
Pakistan military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said it was time India came clean on "false claims", including the second aircraft shot down by Pakistan. "Truth always prevails. Time for India to speak truth about false claims and actual losses on their side including the second aircraft shot down by Pakistan," Ghafoor said.
His remarks came after a report in US-based Foreign Policy magazine, quoting two senior American defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation, said the US personnel recently counted Pakistan's F-16s and found none of the planes missing.
"The findings directly contradict the account of Indian Air Force officials, who said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman managed to shoot down a Pakistani F-16 before his own plane was downed by a Pakistani missile," the report said.
After the aerial confrontation, India said one of its MiG-21 fighter jets downed a Pakistani F-16 before itself being shot down on February 27. The pilot of that jet Varthaman was captured by Pakistan and handed over to India on March 1 in an effort to de-escalate the crisis.
Pakistan, however, has consistently denied the Indian Air Force's claim, saying none of its aircraft were shot down during the weeks of tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries. Pakistan also claims to have shot a second Indian Air Force jet during the engagement, a claim India has dismissed.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14. India launched a counter-terror operation against a JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.