India knows identity of Pakistani F-16 pilot who died, Nirmala Sitharaman tells India Today, confirms Firstpost report that he was beaten by Pakistan locals

  • At an event on national security issues, Sitharaman also said the F-16 pilot was beaten up by local villagers in Pakistan and probably died in a hospital

  • Sitharaman was explaining the events that led to Abhinandan Varthaman's capture by the Pakistan Army

  • She, however, did not reveal the name of the Pakistani pilot, nor did she give out any other details on the issue

Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said that India knows the identity of the deceased Pakistani pilot whose F-16 was downed by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman's MiG-21. In doing so, she acknowledged on record for the first time, the fact that a Pakistani pilot had indeed died in the air strikes that followed on 27 February after the Indian Air Force's Balakot operation on 26 February.

At an event held by India Today on national security issues, Sitharaman also said, "I don't want to rely on social media, but you may have seen on social media itself that a Pakistani air marshal, perhaps retired, claiming that the issue of two pilots. I have not double checked this, but I do want to ask, is it true? Two trained, top pilots of their countries. Both sons of air marshals. One returns to his country, but the other is unacknowledged by the country he died for. Truth is that the F-16 pilot, he was beaten up by villagers, who probably assumed that he was an Indian soldier. He was admitted to a hospital but I don't think he survived."

This confirms a report by Firstpost in which Pakistan Air Force Wing Commander Shahaz-ud-Din, the F-16 pilot shot down in a dogfight over the Nowshera sector, was reported to have been lynched by a mob who mistook him for an Indian airman.

 India knows identity of Pakistani F-16 pilot who died, Nirmala Sitharaman tells India Today, confirms Firstpost report that he was beaten by Pakistan locals

File image of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. PTI

In the video above, which Firstpost has accessed from India Today's YouTube channel, Sitharaman can be heard explaining the Indian intelligence's version of the events that took place in the course of the India-Pakistan air strikes. She, however, did not reveal the name of the Pakistani pilot, nor did she give out any other details on the issue.

Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor had asserted, on the morning of 27 February, that two Indian jets had been shot down and two Indian pilots injured — one of whom was in army custody, and the other in the hospital.

Later in the evening, Major General Ghafoor stated that only one Indian pilot (Abhinandan Varthaman) was in the Pakistan Army's custody, without explaining his earlier comments. The Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations said that Pakistan had "not used an F-16 in the entire operation" and that no Pakistani fighter jet had been hit.

Sitharaman also criticised Pakistan for not acknowledging its own soldiers. "Pakistan never accepts when their soldiers are captured or killed," she was quoted by India Today as having said. Accusing Pakistan of living "in a state of denial," the defence minister said the country had not acknowledged the sacrifices of its soldiers even during the Kargil War of 1999.

Pakistan had for many years denied that its troops were involved in the war — leading to protests in the country's northern areas, from where the Northern Light Infantry is drawn. Eleven years after the War, Pakistan's army officially acknowledged its role, naming 453 soldiers and officers killed in the conflict.

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Updated Date: Mar 13, 2019 13:58:04 IST