The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief’s statement is an indicator that New Delhi is unlikely to ease the pressure being exerted on Pakistan to eliminate cross-border terrorism.
Dhanoa also said the IAF could not put any numbers to those killed in the attack on Balakot on 26 February, amid questions raised by opposition parties on the aftermath of the strike.
“We can’t count how many people have died. It depends on how many people were there...The Air Force is not in a position to count casualties," the IAF chief said.
A political row has erupted over the impact of the strikes with some sections of the government estimating 300-325 casualties although an official figure is yet to be disclosed. BJP chief Amit Shah on Sunday said “250 terrorists have been killed." The opposition has been seeking clarity on the casualties and the debate has been fanned by news reports in the international media expressing doubts about the damage caused by the strikes.
Speaking at a press conference in Coimbatore, Dhanoa declined to comment on what he said was “ongoing operations because they are still ongoing." He was responding to a question as to why the IAF used the ageing MiG-21 Bison fighter jets to take on a combination of F-16s, JF-17 and Mirage 5 launched by Pakistan to violate Indian air space and target military installations in Kashmir on 27 February. India maintains that Pakistan supports terrorist groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. It was a JeM terrorist who rammed a bomb-laden vehicle against a bus carrying Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Pulwama in Kashmir, killing 40.
Dhanoa said it was for the government to disclose the number of casualties.“The Air Force is not in a position to clarify how many people were inside. We don’t count human casualties. We count what targets we have hit or not hit," he said. “The bomb damage assessment that is done post a mission calculates the number of targets we have hit or not hit."
IAF jet shoots down Pak UAV
An Indian Air Force Sukhoi jet shot down a Pakistani unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Rajasthan on Monday.
The Sukhoi jet was scrambled after the UAV was spotted in the Bikaner-Nal sector and shot it down with an air-to-air missile, a person familiar with the development said.