03:19 GMT28 November 2020
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    Though India claims its fighter jets crossed over into Pakistan on 26 February last year and destroyed terror bases belonging to jihadist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Islamabad has consistently denied any such raid having taken place.

    Former Indian Air Force head Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa recalled on Thursday that Indian forces would have wiped out Pakistan's forward brigades if they hadn't released captured Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, in the wake of Balakot air strikes in February last year.

    ​“The way Pakistan leaders were saying their legs were trembling was because of the military posture,” Dhanoa - who was in charge of the IAF during the conflict last year - told Indian news agency Asian News International (ANI).

    “And God forbid, if there were some misadventure or some attack on our installations on the 27 [February 2019], we were in a position to wipe out their forward brigades,” the former IAF head said. “They also know what our capabilities are,” he added.

    Dhanoa's strong remarks came a day after an opposition Pakistan MP referred to last year's tense events during a speech in the country’s National Assembly on Wednesday.

    “The Chief of the Army Staff Qamar Bajwa's legs were trembling for fear [of an Indian attack]. His head was sweating,” said Ayaz Sadiq, a lawmaker from the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party, recalling an all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Imran Khan after the country’s forces captured the Indian pilot.

    “Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said we should let [Varthaman] go because India could attack Pakistan at 9 PM,” Sadiq added.

    He said that Prime Minster Khan had failed to attend the crucial meeting.

    Varthaman was captured after an aerial dogfight between his MIG-21 and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16  jets on 27 February, a day after India attacked Balakot terrorist camps belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in a daring cross-border raid.

    He was returned to India on 1 March after interrogation by Pakistani agencies.

    The Indian pilot said that his aircraft was shot down after straying into Pakistan-administered Kashmir after the aerial combat. India says Varthaman’s Russian-built MIG-21 downed a technologically superior American F-16 jet, but Pakistan has denied the charge. The dogfight was triggered after Pakistan jets intruded into the Indian airspace, retaliating against India’s aerial raids the night before.

    India says that the Balakot air strikes were carried out to avenge the deadly Pulwama terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February, which had left 40 Indian paratroopers dead.

    Related:

    Pakistan Brushes Off Indian Army's Claim That Balakot 'Terror Camp' Has Been Reactivated
    Balakot Airstrike Was Meant to 'Puncture Perpetrators of Terrorism', Indian Air Force Chief Says
    A Year After Balakot: Defence Minister Says India Won't Hesitate to Cross Border to Curb Terrorism
    Tags:
    India, F-16, MiG-21, Pakistan
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