A day after Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman was conferred Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter on February 27, 2019, Pakistan on Tuesday “categorically” rejected “baseless Indian claims” terming them as a “classic case of Indian fabrications” and “pure fantasy to appease domestic audience and hide the embarrassment”.
In turn, Pakistan claimed that in addition to the MiG-21 Bison fighter of then Wing Commander Varthaman that was shot down and fell in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), it had also shot down an IAF Su-30 which it said fell on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC).
“International experts and U.S. officials have already confirmed that no Pakistani F-16 was shot down on the day, after taking stock of Pakistani F-16 aircraft. India’s insistence on propagating a lie that has been thoroughly exposed is ludicrous and nonsensical. Granting military honours for imaginary feats of gallantry is contrary to every norm of military conduct. By giving such award, also as an after thought, India has only made a mockery of itself,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan said in a statement.
Claiming that two IAF jets were shot down, Pakistan said the release of Wg. Cdr. Varthaman was testimony of Pakistan’s “desire” for peace despite India’s “hostility and ill-conceived aggressive action”. “It is obvious that India’s farcical story has no credibility whatsoever before the international community.”
Referring to the IAF Mi-17 that was shot down by India’s own air defence system, the statement claimed that the IAF was “completely outplayed” on the day. “India would do well to learn a lesson from its botched attempt to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and refrain from any misadventure in future,” it said.
Gp. Capt. Varthaman was awarded Vir Chakra, the third highest gallantry award, by President Ram Nath Kovind at an investiture ceremony on Monday.
A day after the Balakot air strike, Pakistan Air Force launched retaliatory strike with several fighter aircraft consisting of F-16 and JF-17 jets. These were intercepted by IAF Mig-21 Bison jets and in the ensuing aerial combat, Wg. Cdr. Varthaman pursued a retreating enemy fighter bomber aircraft and shot down an F-16 with his onboard missile, according to the citation.
The citation said despite being captured by the enemy, he continued to display exceptional resolve in dealing with the adversary in a brave and dignified manner till he was repatriated on March 1, 2019.