Four years after the downing of two Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft and capture of one pilot, the IAF is yet to recover from the humiliation at the hands of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) which exposed to the world the inherent military weakness of a “nuclear-armed” India. The botched attempt to strike deep inside Pakistan following a false flag operation at Pulwama on 14 Feb 2019, established the military and technological superiority of the PAF and shattered to pieces the myth of Indian military might. On 27th Feb 2019, during the short aerial encounter, PAF shot down two IAF aircraft and captured one of the pilots.
The debris of the SU-30 fell in IIOK and its pilot was killed, while the MiG-21 pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, whose aircraft fell on the Pakistan side was captured alive. The success of the PAF in Operation Swift Retort against a far bigger adversary is now observed as a “Surprise Day” every year. India’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar confirmed that the missing of one Pilot.
“In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one Mig-21. Pakistan has claimed that the Pilot was in their custody Pakistan’s DG- ISPR Asif Ghafoor said that Pakistani aircraft had fired on six targets in IIOJK, hitting “open spaces” as a demonstration of Pakistan’s capability to hit Indian targets. The intention was not to cause any civilian or military casualties. Pakistan’s Foreign Office stated that “the sole purpose was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defence. We have no intention of escalation but are fully prepared to do so if forced into the war paradigm.” Furthermore, Indian forces were baffled so badly by the Pakistani response that they had targeted their own Mi-17 Chopper at Budgam. Indian Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria admitted shooting down of own Mi-17 V5 helicopter by the IAF on 27 February was a “big mistake”.
To cover up this ignominy, IAF claimed that they had downed the F-16 jet of Pakistan during the aerial combat on 27th February. As usual, the claim turned out to be incorrect and was rebutted by US authorities on the ground in Pakistan as the count of F-16 proved that no plane was missing and India tried to mislead the international community. Later on, Pakistan handed over Wing Commander Abhinandan to India in a peace-mongering gesture in an attempt to de-escalate the tensions between both the countries. The entire Balakot episode turned out to be nightmarish for India as it was widely exposed vulnerabilities in Indian defense and raised serious questions over the war capabilities of Indian ground and aerial forces.