NEW DELHI: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned to a hero’s welcome on Friday, almost 60 hours after he was dramatically taken captive in PoK after being shot down while chasing an intruding Pakistani F-16.
However, this week’s India-Pakistan conflict has set a few new rules in the relationship between the nations. The Indian Air Force’s anti-terror operation across LoC and the international border is meant to be a deterrent for future, while in Pakistan’s retaliation the next day, Imran Khan was able to show his resolve in “protecting sovereignty”.
Unnoticed is the gain Chinese military industry had. The Pakistani jets that crossed the Line of Control and attacked Indian military this Thursday included F-16 and China-made JF-17 — India has proof that F-16 fired Amraam missiles, meaning a contravention of US rules on the jet.
But as news of the crash of India’s MiG-21 across LoC trickled in, a retired Pakistan air marshal, Shahid Latif, tweeted that it was a JF-17 that shot it down.
Proud to announce, I was project director for JF-17 Thunder program jointly produced by Pakistan and China during t… https://t.co/gSvI6HzJsA
— AM Shahid Latif (Retd) (@AMShahidLatif) 1551272760000
It is still not clear if it was indeed JF-17, an F-16, a ground-based weapon or a chopper that actually shot down the jet, as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had crossed the LoC while engaging the Pakistani jets. Nevertheless, the tweet by Latif led to a surge in the stock price of Sichuan Chengfei Integration Technology on the Shenzhen stock exchange. That company is a sister organisation of Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, which makes the jet in partnership with Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. There was a reason for this enthusiasm among Chinese investors as, if Pakistan air marshal’s claim is true, it will mark the first time JF-17 was involved in an air combat.
Yet it is not that JF-17 jets are superior. In fact, for long China’s fighter jets were thought to have weaker engines. That’s the reason why China wanted to buy Russia’s AL-41F1S engine used in Sukhoi-35, though Moscow rejected the offer, fearing the Chinese would seek to reverse-engineer it. China has since bought Su-35 jets from Russia.
But China does have customers for JF-17, with Myanmar and Nigeria also using the jets (procured from Pakistan), and is eager to sell it to more nations. Sri Lanka had recently cancelled its plan to buy them under pressure from India.