On the same day Pakistan handed over captured Indian pilot, Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, to the Indian military after his MiG-21 jet was shot down previously this week in the first significant aerial combat engagement between the two countries in nearly half a century, local television stations are circulating purported footage of the air battle as it unfolded.
Indian journalist Ajay Jandyal was the first to release the video clip via social media, which appears to show a white parachute falling at a distance at the start of the footage, after which two jet fighters fly near each other and engage in battle.
#Exclusive— Ajay Jandyal (@ajayjandyal) February 28, 2019
Now its time when pakistan should admit and share details of its Wing Commander Shahzad-Ud-Din of No 19 Squadron (Sherdils), pilot of the F-16 who was killed in @IAF_MCC action in Nowshera sector LoC#Surgical_Strike_2 pic.twitter.com/FXMGyuBk5m
Journalists in India say the video confirms the Indian Air Force also shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet, something not highly publicized given the focus on the detained and since released Indian pilot. Ajay Jandyal tweeted with the video: “Now it’s time when Pakistan should admit and share details of its Wing Commander Shahzad-Ud-Din of No 19 Squadron (Sherdils), pilot of the F-16 who was killed in @IAF_MCC action in Nowshera sector LoC”.
The question of whether Pakistan deployed F-16s in Wednesday's aerial skirmish has remained a deeply contentious one as sporadic artillery and gun fire has continued to erupt along the border Friday.
Pakistan has rejected the accusations of India's armed services chiefs that it used American-supplied F-16's along the Line of Control (LoC) area, which would put India in violation of the terms of the sale agreement with the United States.
Visuals of cover of AARAM missile fired from Pakistani F-16 aircraft found near the LoC in India pic.twitter.com/qHdOm5cDqN— ANI (@ANI) February 28, 2019
"There is enough evidence to show F-16s were used in this mission and Pakistan is trying to hide this fact," said Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor on Thursday.
The Indian military says it has proof after it recovered the F-16 that was allegedly shot down by Abhinandan Varthaman's IAF MiG 21 before his own plane was shot down.
That proof, Air Vice Marshal Kapoor said, comes in the form of a recovered missile used by the Pakistani jet: "Parts of AMRAAM, air to air missile which is carried only on the Pakistani F-16s was recovered east of Rajouri within the Indian territory," he said. India now plans to share the evidence in its possession with the United States to demonstrate Pakistan has breached its F-16 purchase agreements.
But the video purporting to show the air battle is less than definitive, with many saying the parachutist is actually the Indian pilot who was captured.
The Indian Air Force on Thursday displayed parts of the AIM-120C-5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) fired by the F-16 that has details of its production number and can be tracked by US authorities to understand when they were delivered.
Electronic signatures captured by Indian radars as well as sightings by Indian Army troops on the border who saw two pilots ejecting from the Pakistani fighter inside PoK is also part of the evidence to be presented to the US. Besides, photographs obtained from Pakistani media show parts of the F-16 scattered across the border, senior air force officers said. — Economic Times/India Times
Meanwhile Wing Commander Varthaman has been treated to a hero's welcome on Friday, and Indian TV ran footage throughout the day of his being escorted across the Wagah border back into India, where he will reportedly undergo an extensive medical evaluation, and debriefing concerning the details of the combat encounter and captivity.
Russia and regional powers like China have continued efforts at mediation in an attempt to calm any potential escalation toward a broader war that may come of the incident. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke to his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, on Friday. Lavrov encouraged both sides to "resolve all issues through dialogue and peaceful means."