Surgical strikes 2.0: The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Mirage 2000 jets today completely destroyed the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists in Balakot, Pakistan. The air strikes carried out in the early hours of 26th February come within days of the Pulwama terror attack which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF jawans in Jammu and Kashmir. With today’s air strike in which 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets were involved, India has reportedly eliminated around 300 terrorists. The JeM facility that was destroyed in Balakot today was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar (alias Ustad Ghouri), the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, Chief of JeM.
The air strikes, carried out deep inside Pakistan territory, are a big statement from India, feel defence experts. According to Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur VM (Retd), IAF has struck deep inside Pakistan. “Make no mistake, this is a strike on Pakistan. IAF jets have not crossed LoC since 1971 war and struck Pakistan territory, so in that sense this is unprecedented,” he told Financial Express Online. “India has sent a message and the statement by the Foreign Secretary is a measured one, aimed at diffusing the situation. The onus is now on Pakistan, they are in a quandary and they have no grounds to strike back, since India unlike Pakistan does not harbour any terrorist camps,” he added.
Also read: It took IAF jets 19 minutes to demolish Jaish terror camps across LoC
Brahma Chellaney, a defence and strategic affairs expert is of the view that India has sent a “chilling message for Pakistan’s terrorism sponsors”. In a series of tweets, Chellaney has said that, “…The ISI headquarters in Islamabad and GHQ in Rawalpindi are much closer than Balakot to the Ambala airbase, from where Indian warplanes carried out the airstrikes with impunity. The military generals find they have no clothes.” Chellaney has also aid that the use of air power by India signals that it is not afraid to escalate response to call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff.
Harsh V Pant, Head Strategic Studies Programme at Observer Research Foundation is of the view that India is climbing up the escalation ladder with each surgical strike. “In some ways this air strike is unprecedented since the IAF has not crossed the LoC since 1971. We have broken the psychological barrier on that front. India is also slowly climbing the escalation ladder when it comes to terror attacks such as Uri or Pulwama,” Pant told Financial Express Online. “There is a new self-confidence on display. It is also an extremely embarrassing situation for Pakistan that IAF jets were able to go so deep into its territory and return unharmed,” he said adding that, “the proverbial ball is now in Pakistan’s court. Their old strategy has clearly run its course.”
According to Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, the strikes were non-military and preemptive in nature. The statement adds that the target was selected to avoid civilian casualties. The facility, now destroyed, was located on a hilltop in a thick forest, far away from any civilian presence, the statement reads.