Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa clearly goofed when he said that, after the Pakistan strike, prime minister Narendra Modi\u2019s popularity was so high, the party would win at least 22 of the state\u2019s 28 Lok Sabha seats, and it didn\u2019t help that the pictures of CRPF jawans\u2014killed in the Pulwama attack by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)\u2014formed the backdrop to Modi\u2019s address at Churu after the successful air-strike at JeM training camps in the heart of Pakistan. Even so, the Congress party\u2019s condemnation of Modi\u2014along with 20 other Opposition parties\u2014for \u201cblatant politicisation of the sacrifices made by our armed forces\u201d always looked churlish; coinciding with this Opposition onslaught, various WhatsApp videos surfaced of servicemen\u2019s wives asking Modi to, yes, not politicise the sacrifices of soldiers! Apart from condemning the prime minister during a major crisis being in bad taste, the Opposition parties praising the Air Force for responding so well to the JeM attack, but criticising Modi, never made sense. How did they think the Air Force retaliated without Modi giving them the go-ahead, a go-ahead they never got after heinous Pakistani terror attacks during the UPA rule? The Opposition, however, got some traction since, after Pakistan retaliated, and captured Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, many started wondering about where this would end; more so, after Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan\u2019s statement about the possibility of the script spiralling out of control, and in a situation where both countries had nuclear weapons. The Congress taunting Modi by asking him where Abhinandan was\u2014and when he would come home\u2014has been blunted by the Pakistanis announcing that they would be releasing him, but the more serious question the Opposition needs to answer is what did they want Modi to do since it is clear the old policy of \u2018strategic restraint\u2019 wasn\u2019t working. As many as 1,467 people were killed in terrorist violence across the country in 2014-17, and 2,703 in the four years before that; and keep in mind that the latest attacks include something as brazen as infiltrating into army and paramilitary camps such as in Handwara, Nagrota and Sunjuwan. So, if \u2018strategic restraint\u2019 didn\u2019t work, what was Modi to do? In the event, Modi\u2019s instinctive reaction was to shake things up, but with meticulous planning. The operation to strike major JeM training camps with 250-300 terrorists in Balakot involved the use of aircraft from multiple bases, including a mid-flight re-fuelling aircraft and a surveillance drone, apart from 12 Mirage 2000s; as an added gift, an outdated MiG flown by Abhinandan also downed a more modern Pakistani F-16. By upping the ante so much\u2014finance minister Arun Jaitley even spoke of India having the ability to carry out an Osama-type operation deep in the heart of Pakistan like the US did\u2014Modi made it clear the costs for Pakistan would no longer be as minimal as in the past. And, if the operation itself was executed so well, the diplomatic offensive prior to the strike, and after it, has been equally impressive. While China, which has traditionally backed Pakistan on JeM chief Masood Azhar, was forced to sign off on a UN Security Council (UNSC) statement condemning the attack, and the US\/UK\/France have made yet another attempt to get the UNSC to label Azhar a \u2018global terrorist\u2019; while China may, once again, scuttle the move, it says a lot that the pressure is being maintained by the global community; it is unlikely Abhinandan would have been released so soon without this global pressure. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urged both countries to de-escalate but while underscoring the \u201curgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil\u201d. And, after his summit with North Korea ended, president Trump reiterated the US position when, instead of condemning India, he said \u201cWe have reasonably attractive news from Pakistan and India\u201d and that he hoped the hostilities would end soon; a few days before the strike, he had said India was planning \u201csomething very strong\u201d, once again indicating it had US support. And while the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned India\u2019s strike, it has not withdrawn its invitation to foreign minister Sushma Swaraj at its next session, so much so that Pakistan\u2014a founding member of the OIC\u2014may boycott the meeting. An Opposition so blinded by hatred for Modi, however, saw none of this, took no pride in what the country had achieved. While the Opposition\u2019s sniping, and, indeed, its attempt to scuttle the Rafale purchase despite the huge delays in procurement\u2014even as the Air Force\u2019s fleet kept dwindling\u2014suggest that it, and not Modi, is guilty of playing politics, India\u2019s real challenge begins now. Getting Abhinandan back is undoubtedly a victory, but not one India had thought would be necessary since it may not have envisaged its pilot getting shot down in enemy territory. The real goal was to deal a crippling blow to Pakistan\u2019s terror infrastructure, if not eliminate it altogether. The fact that Pakistan is returning Abhinandan\u2014as a \u201cgesture of peace\u201d\u2014shows Modi\u2019s tactics have worked, and that Pakistan may take longer than it has in the past to return to waging its proxy war through terrorists. But the terror network is far from being dismantled, and it is not clear that, with Pakistan looking as if it is trying to dampen hostilities, the global community will allow India to continue to target JeM or other terrorist facilities. To that extent, returning Wing Commander Abhinandan is a masterstroke by the Pakistani military establishment, and Modi\u2019s challenge is to ensure he is able to sustain the momentum he has managed to achieve so far. It is, of course, unfortunate that the Opposition is not with him in this endeavour, though that may change once the elections are over\u2014right now, no one wants to concede anything since, at least till the Pakistani misadventure, most predicted the elections would be a lot closer than imagined in May 2014. Postscript: Since WhatsApp forwards dominate the discourse nowadays, it is fitting to quote from one of them to end this column: \u201cIndia: We\u2019ve isolated Pakistan internationally. Pakistan: We\u2019ve isolated Modi domestically with the help of 21 political parties\u201d.