US demands to know if Pakistan used F-16 jet to shoot down Indian warplane over Kashmir

Comes as tensions ease in disputed region of Kashmir 

Sunday 03 March 2019 19:21 GMT
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Blindfolded Indian Air Force pilot in Pakistan custody following Kashmir strikes

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

The United States is trying to find out if Pakistan potentially violated an international agreement by using a US-built F-16 jet to shoot down an Indian warplane.

Pakistan and India both conducted aerial bombing missions last week, including a clash which saw an Indian jet shot down over the disputed region of Kashmir.

The US embassy in Islamabad said it was looking into reports that Pakistan used F-16 jets which would be a violation of Washington's military sale agreements that limit how Pakistan can use the planes.

"We are aware of these reports and are seeking more information," a US embassy spokesperson said.

"We take all allegations of misuse of defence articles very seriously."

It is however not clear what exactly these so-called "end-user agreements" restrict Pakistan from doing.

"The US Government does not comment on or confirm pending investigations of this nature," the US embassy added.

Pakistan has denied using F-16 jets during the dogfight that downed an Indian warplane but has not specified which planes it used.

On Thursday Indian officials displayed to reporters parts of what they called an air-to-air missile that can only be fired from F-16 jets, alleging they were used to bomb its side of the disputed Kashmir border on Wednesday.

A Pakistan military spokesman told reporters that Pakistani jets "locked" on Indian targets to demonstrate Pakistan's capacity to strike back at India, but then chose to fire in an empty field where there would be no casualties.

Pakistan said its mission on Wednesday was in retaliation for India violating its airspace and sovereignty a day earlier, when Indian jets bombed a forest area near the northern city of Balakot.

Cross-border shelling in the past few days has killed seven people on the Pakistani side and four on the Indian side of Kashmir.

But there was relative calm at the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border of Kashmir, on Sunday.

"By and large the LoC was calm last night but you never know when it will become active again," said Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, a minister in Pakistani Kashmir.

"Tension still prevails."

Captured Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman crosses back to India

In Indian-administered Kashmir, troops shot dead two militants after a three-day gun battle that also killed five security force personnel, taking the total death toll to 25 in the past two weeks.

The fresh anti-militancy drive was launched after a Kashmiri suicide bomber, a member of a Pakistan-based militant group, killed 40 Indian paramilitary police on 14 February.

Additional reporting from agencies

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