Chandigarh: Minutes after retired Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa attacked the Pakistani claim that IAF bombers dropped their payloads in haste and missed their target on February 26 when they bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot, Christine Fair – an expert on South Asian political and military affairs – said the IAF story of the operation and its aftermath is based on ‘dubious’ claims.
Fair, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University who has spent many years researching in Pakistan, stirred up a heated debate at the Military Literature Festival in Chandigarh on Saturday when she went on to assert that she did not believe India shot down an F-16 fighter during the dogfight between Indian and Pakistani jets in the aftermath of the Indian airstrikes over Balakot.
“I say this clearly with 100% certitude that there was no F-16 struck down. I do not believe you did. I believe that my bonafides as a critic of Pakistan stand for itself,” she said before a stunned audience. But Fair added that she and many others in the Pentagon actually wished that the IAF had indeed shot down the F-16, because India had “a right to bomb Pakistan” in retaliation for the Pulwama attack. She, however, questioned the IAF’s narrative about the incident, saying that it is not based on an empirical body of facts but dictated more by “things deployed by politicians to win elections…. The world outside of India does not see things the way they were said here today. Though, I wish they were true.” Fair is the author of Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, a brutal critique of the Pakistan army that analyses why it is a destabilising force in world politics.
Amidst some interruptions from the audience – comprising mostly retired and serving defence officers – Fair went on to allege that the video of the purported F-16 going down in Pakistani territory and Punjabi speaking villagers talking about a pilot having crashed there, shared extensively on social media, was “fake”. She maintained that “India has lost a lot of credibility in the ways that certain images have been deployed through social media that do not show what they show, with the level of certainty that is asserted.” India awarded Wing Commander AbhinandanVarthaman a Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistani F-16, described by the IAF as an aircraft superior to the MIG21 Bison that Varthaman was flying. Fair, countered this by saying, “Avionics experts outside of India are unanimous in their opinion that this particular MIG Bison was superior on virtually every respect to that particular F-16 that Pakistan flies.”