A day after Pakistan shepherded internal and foreign media to the site where Indian bombs dropped on February 26 in air raid, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman lauded the Indian Air Force for "flawless execution of the Balakot strikes and subsequent thwarting of the Pakistani response".
Sitharaman's appreciation came when she addressed the IAF commanders here at the bi-annual conference. She also praised the force for successful conduct of exercises Gagan Shakti in 2018 and Vayu Shakti 2019, saying the perfomance during the drills was reflected in actual action in Balakot and the dogfight with Pakistan Air Force (PAF) a day after.
In a denial that IAF fighter jets had destroyed a Jaish-e-Mohammad facility in Balakot, Pakistan opened the air strike site to international media and diplomats on April 10, 43 days after the attack. Pakistan army had earlier prevented journalists from accessing the area. The India-based journalists were taken on a conducted tour. The exercise was seen as a sham in India to cover up the embarrassment.
Pakistan also denied that it lost an F-16 fighter jet in an air raid across the Line of Control (LoC) on February 27.
The Defence Minister by applauding the IAF action has slammed the criticism from certain quarters about IAF jets missing the target or remaining ineffective in the dogfight.
A few days ago, IAF had produced irrefutable evidence in public domain establishing that its Mig-21 Bison flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthman had shot down a PAF F-16. The radar image of the air battle was released to the media for the first time.
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