Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted India had “taught Pakistan a lesson” in February, claiming a jet was shot down and a terror group’s military base bombed to avenge its own downed plane. But in a blow for Modi’s prospects in next week’s election the F-16’s American manufacturer Lockheed-Martin revealed none of the jets were missing after an inspection. In February, India and Pakistan’s air forces clashed 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.
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 magazine revealed Pakistan had invited US officials to physically count the F-16 planes after February’s incident but some were immediately available for inspection due to the conflict, so it took weeks to account for all of the jets.
The Pakistan Army reacted with delight after the Lockheed-Martin report in the American Foreign Policy magazine yesterday.
The army tweeted: ”Truth always prevails. Time for India to speak truth about false claims and actual losses on their side.”
The success of Indian air strikes on a camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group in northwestern Pakistan have also been thrown into doubt after satellite images showed little sign of damage.
A religious school run by Jaish appeared to be still standing days after India claimed its warplanes had hit the Islamist group’s training camp on the site and killed a large number of militants.
However, this week Pakistan accused the Indian Army of war crimes after “dozens” of soldiers and civilians were killed on the border using artillery.
A Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman said: “Indian troops intentionally targeted innocent civilians travelling in a civil bus in Bagsar Sector. This is not only in clear violation of existing arrangement but also unethical and immoral.
“The Indian forces along the Line of Control and the Working boundary are continuously targeting civilian populated areas with heavy weapons.
The two neighbours have also been fighting a cyberwar in recent months with Facebook and Twitter banning more than 100 Pakistani Facebook accounts due to them spewing propaganda.
Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has used the tensions with old enemy Pakistan to stoke the election campaign for next week’s poll.
The BJP is locked in a battle with a resurgent Congress Party under Rahul Ghandi ahead of the election which start next Thursday.
With a population of 1.2 billion the Indian general election will be one of the biggest democratic exercises in human history.