By Gautam Datt
New Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) Amidst claims and counter claims about the aerial engagement on the border in the fog of war, a senior Indian Air Force (IAF) official appeared at the External Affairs Ministry briefing along with Joint Secretary (External Publicity) Raveesh Kumar on Wednesday but did not answer questions, leaving the facts at the mercy of speculation.
Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor is Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations) at the Air Headquarters. He is in-charge of the offensive air operations. This is the first time in two days when an IAF officer came to face the media but offered no answers to many questions floating around the fate of Indian pilots Pakistan claims it has captured.
This despite anxiety in the nation following the release of disturbing video going viral showing a bleeding pilot in Pakistani custody.
Even though his identity was not confirmed officially, the social media was abuzz with details about his background.
The euphoria over the air strike inside Pakistan on Tuesday turned into concerns about the fate of the pilot. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has claimed that two IAF pilots were in their custody.
India has claimed that only one pilot is “missing in action”.
The first Indian statement about the air strike on Tuesday was made by Foreign Secretary Vijay K. Gokhale hours after Pakistan’s Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations, Major General Asif Ghafoor, made the attacks public.
The social media came alive right from the morning amidst reports of a tank battle in Sialkot to massive troop build up on the Pakistan side.
The “action” soon moved towards the Line of Control (LoC) and Jammu and Kashmir. Reports of an aircraft going down in Badgam in the Kashmir Valley came in between inputs about Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighters dropping bombs on the Indian side.
The only official claims came from the Pakistani side which talked about launching a counter offensive.
Even as the facts from the claims were being sifted, Pakistan announced that it had captured two Indian pilots. Before the news sunk in, reports appeared that IAF had shot down a PAF F-16.
The euphoria over the “kill” remained short-lived as an alleged video of a captured Indian pilot went viral on Pakistan media.
After hours of silence, India confirmed that one of its pilots was missing in action but refused to go beyond it. It also confirmed that it had shot down a PAF aircraft but did not identify if it was an F-16.
Flight tracking websites showed empty air space on the India-Pakistan border leading to panic.
The claims have been far too many but the facts have been economical.
(Gautam Datt can be contacted at [email protected])