Military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor has rejected India's claims that Pakistan used American-made F-16 jets to down Indian aircraft in late February, telling Russian news agency Sputnik that the PAC JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft developed jointly with China were used instead.
"The aircraft which engaged those targets and fought them were JF-17. As regard to how to use F-16, in what context [they] were used or not — because at that point of time our entire Air Force was airborne — now it remains between Pakistan and the US to see how the MoUs regarding the use of F-16 have been adhered to or otherwise," he said in an interview.
Asserting that Pakistan would use whatever it deemed necessary for "legitimate self-defense", Major General Ghafoor said Pakistan decided to respond to India's February 26 incursion but chose not to threaten civilian lives.
Sharing Pakistan's account of the events that preceded the dogfight on February 28, he said Indian jets violated Pakistani airspace on February 26, dropping payloads without inflicting any casualties or damage to infrastructure.
"Next day, our air force, while staying within our own airspace, took four targets in India-occupied Kashmir … Being a responsible country, we could have caused damage even to the military installations or human life … But we had to show our will, capability and resolve."
"So what we did — we first chose the targets, and when the targets were locked by the aircraft, we shifted the point of impact to a safety distance where there was no infrastructure or human life, meaning thereby that we wanted to tell Indians that we had the capability to hit that military target, but in the interest of peace in the region we are only showing you our capability," Ghafoor said.
He added that Pakistan had the footage of this operation.
'Insane to discuss use of nuclear weapons'
The head of the military's media wing also categorically ruled out the possibility of Pakistan using its nuclear weapons, saying that it sees them as more of a deterrence tool to prevent actual wars.
"Since we have gone overtly nuclear, as India also, in 1998, our stance is that this capability eliminates the possibility of conventional war between the two states. So that is to say, this is a weapon of deterrence and a political choice. No sane country having this capability would talk about using it," Maj Gen Ghafoor said.
He asserted that even though the protection of the country was of the utmost importance, it would be "insane" to discuss the use of nuclear weapons. He also conveyed Pakistan's will to take steps towards non-proliferation of nuclear arms, but only if India does the same.
"Pakistan will undertake anything which is based on equality. You cannot tie Pakistan's hands and keep India's open. Anything that happens should happen for both countries."
'Cooperation with Russia on the rise'
The director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said Pakistan is negotiating defence industry cooperation with Russia in the areas of aviation, air defense systems and anti-tank missiles.
"We have aviation, we have air defense and we have the anti-tank domain which we are negotiating. And these will be positive negotiations. Nothing is out. Anything and everything, which is possible to be purchased by Pakistan, will be done."
Maj Gen Ghafoor said Pakistan would welcome Russia's role in mediating the recently inflamed tensions between Pakistan and India."We would welcome any third-party mediation that can bring peace in the region. And Russia is more than welcome."
He said Pakistan valued Russia's role in the Afghan settlement process and recognised Moscow's importance in regional processes.
"We greatly value the relevance and importance of Russia in the region, especially what role Russia has lately played towards Afghan reconciliation … Russia looks towards balance of power and multi-polarity in the world. We value Russia's voice as the voice of reason, and we would love if Russia, being a powerful country, plays its role in bringing peace to South Asia and beyond. And we expect that Russia will do it, as the efforts being undertaken by Russia are generating good results," said Maj Gen Ghafoor.