In the early hours of Tuesday, February 27, India for the first time responded to the Pulwama attack with the Indian Air Force fighter jets crossing the line of control into Pakistan to conduct a strike at the militant training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed. Jaish-e Mohammed is a jihadist terrorist group based in Pakistan, that claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama attack.
Background of the February 14 Pulwama Attack:
On February 14, a CRPF convoy passing through the Jammu-Srinagar highway was rammed by a vehicle filled with explosives. A suicide bomber belonging to Kashmir, identified as Adil Ahmad Dar, was at the wheel that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF jawans.
India’s Crackdown on the Terrorists: Background
12 days after the Pulwama terror attack, Indian forces conducted its first major military strike at Jaish-e Mohammad’s biggest training camp at Balakot around 3.45 am on Tuesday. Around 3.48 am the Muzaffarabad terror launch pad was hit. India Today reported that the attack lasted for about 21 minutes where multiple 1000kg bombs were dropped by 2000 aircraft. Asif Ghafoor, spokesperson for Pakistan Armed Forces said, the Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan-administered Kashmir and “released a payload” towards Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, as reported by the Independent. The report further says quoting Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, that it was “grave aggression by India and since India had violated its territory, Pakistan reserves the right to respond”. The bombing raid was carried out at a base located in the forest “to avoid civilian casualties”, and subsequently eliminated around “350 terrorists and their trainers” as reported by The Telegraph. However, Pakistan denied the destruction of any such training facility and in their point of view, “India targeted a non-civilian area to claim terrorists were killed”. The camp under attack was headed by Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law Maulana Yousuf Azhar.
How are Lives in J&K Being Affected?
On 26 February, The Kashmir Walla.com reported that Srinagar was facing its “worst” petrol crisis after the Pulwama attack. The frequent close down of the Srinagar-Jammu highway was affecting supply creating major problems for commuters. The report says not only did the prices increase but also there is a crisis of “eatables, meat and cooking gas”.
Who Said What?
Vijay Kumar Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs:
> They say they want India to bleed with a 1000 cuts. We say that each time you attack us, be certain we will get back at you, harder and stronger. Salute the brave pilots of the Indian Air Force that carried out the strikes.
Vijay Gokhale, India’s Foreign Secretary:
> There was credible intelligence that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack. In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became absolutely necessary.
> The attack was a response to “the menace of terrorism” and not the Pakistani state.
Prakesh Javadekar, India’s human resource development minister:
> This was a necessary step for the defence of the country, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given the armed forces a free hand. The whole country stands behind the armed forces.
Asif Ghafoor, Pakistan Armed forces spokesman:
> Indian aircrafts intruded from Muzaffarabad sector. Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot. No casualties or damage.
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India:
> India would give a fitting, jaw-breaking response to this attack.
> I assure you that the nation is in safe hands.
Imran Khan, Pakistani Prime Minister:
> India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing.
The Latest Update of February 27:
• Two Indian aircraft were shot down inside Pakistani airspace. The Government of Pakistan in their official Twitter account said on Wednesday, “In response to PAF strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF crossed LOC. PAF shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K while other fell inside IOK. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in area: DG ISPR”, as reported by CNN.
• The Indian Government said on Wednesday that an Indian Pilot was “missing in action” after an Indian Air Force aircraft shot down a Pakistani jet targeting military installations, as reported by NDTV live blog.
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Military chiefs, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Intelligence Officials and Defence and Foreign Secretary.
• Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan calls for a dialogue with India and shows eagerness to call a probe on Pulwama attack. During a television address, he said, “It was our plan to not cause any collateral damage, and not to cause any casualties. We simply wanted to show capability. Two Indian MIGs crossed Pakistan’s Borders, and we shot them down. I want to now address India and say let sanity prevail”.
• India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said while attending a meeting in China, “The limited objective of that pre-emptive strike was to act decisively against the terrorist infrastructure of Jaish-e- Mohammed in order to pre-empt another terror attack in India. India does not wish to see further escalation of this situation. India will continue to act with responsibility and restraint”.
While situations keep getting tense and hostilities keep increasing, one attack after another is clearly not the answer. The situations definitely demand for dialogues and discussions. With the Pakistani government already calling for a dialogue, it is time for the Indian government to choose its further steps carefully and wisely- revenge and war or dialogue and negotiations. However, as history teaches, Pakistan does not always stay true to its words and had frequently walked back on its commitments. Therefore, Indian government should maintain vigilance and caution.
Sources- NDTV, Hindustan Times, CNN, The Kashmir Walla.com, Independent
Image Credits- NDTV, HT, India Today, India, Livemint, Gandhara RFE/RL, Al Jazeera, News Daily, MetroSaga