Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale arrived in the US on Sunday in connection with the bilateral Foreign Office Consultation and Strategic Security Dialogue with his American counterparts, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson. Gokhale is also scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today.
Over the course of his discussions with the US officials, Gokhale will raise the issue of Pakistan misusing US-made F-16 fighter jets and Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) against India, The Economic Times reported. He is expected to emphasise the Indian point that US taxpayers' money was used to subsidise weapons that Pakistan had acquired under the 'fight against terrorism' banner in 2008 but was recently used to conduct a cross-border raid.
Sources told PTI last week that India has already shared the evidence of misuse of F-16s - which, as per the sale agreement, can only be used for counter-terrorism operations and self-defence, and not to attack any country - with the US. The shared evidence reportedly includes the wreckage of an AIM-120C AMRAAM missile - clearly displaying its contract number that can be tracked by US authorities - and electronic signatures of the deployed F-16s captured by Indian radars. But Pakistan has categorically stated that no F-16s were used in the aerial combat against India.
The US State Department said last Tuesday that America is seeking more information from Pakistan on the matter. "We've seen those reports and we're following that issue very closely," said US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino.
As part of the 2008 deal - despite concerns raised by India - the US had also provided at least 500 of the AIM120 AMRAAMs that were used by Pakistani Air Force F-16 jets on the morning of February 27 in a 'first strike' attack against an Indian air patrol, comprising Force Su-30 MKIs, Mirage 2000 and MiG21 Bisons within Indian territory. The air patrol had scrambled to counter the Pakistani intrusion over the Nowshera sector in a retaliatory strike a day after the Indian Air Force blew up terror camps of Jaish-e-Mohammed across the Line of Control (LoC).
According to the daily, the AMRAAM was fired at least four times by the Pakistani jets and while most of the missiles were dodged by the Su-30 MKIs, at least one is believed to have hit the Bison piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and brought it down in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. This offensive use of the US-supplied missiles reportedly violates the rules of engagement on the LoC.
(Edited by Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal; with PTI inputs)