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India honouring Abhinandan a ‘classic case of fabrication, pure fantasy’: FO

Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistani forces in 2019. Source: Indian Express

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has termed awarding a gallantry award to Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan Varthaman a “classic case of Indian fabrication and pure fantasy” aimed at appeasing domestic audience.

Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistani forces in 2019 after his MiG 21 Bison aircraft was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jet. He was returned to India a day later as a goodwill gesture.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said Pakistan categorically rejects the entirely baseless Indian claims that a Pakistani F-16 aircraft was shot down by an Indian pilot before he was captured by Pakistan in Azad Jammu and Kashmir in February 2019.

“The citation of the award to the downed Indian pilot is a classic case of Indian fabrications and pure fantasy to appease domestic audience and hide the embarrassment,” it added.

The spokesperson said international experts and US 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.”

“It is reminded that in a daring day light action, two Indian aircraft were shot down by Pakistan Air Force on 27 February 2019. One of the Indian Mig-21 Bison aircraft fell down in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The pilot who ejected was captured by Pakistan and later released as a goodwill gesture. His return to India was testimony of Pakistan’s desire for peace despite India’s hostility and ill-conceived aggressive action.”

“Another Indian aircraft SU 30 shot down by Pakistan Air Force fell on the other side of LOC. On the same day, in panic, Indian military shot down its own MI 17 helicopter near Srinagar which initially denied, was accepted later on. Indian Air Force was completely outplayed on the day.”

The Foreign Office said it is “obvious that India’s farcical story has no credibility whatsoever before the international community”. It said Pakistan stands as ready and resolute to thwart any hostile designs as it was in February 2019. “India would do well to learn a lesson from its botched attempt to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and refrain from any misadventure in future.”

The statement comes a day after Abhinandan was given the Indian third-highest gallantry award Vir Chakra medal by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind. According to Indian media, Abhinandan, who was recently promoted from wing commander to group captain, was awarded the medal for “showing conspicuous courage” while shooting down a Pakistani F-16 aircraft in February 2019 — a claim that has been rubbished by the Pakistan military, independent observers as well as the international media.

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