(Sansad TV: Perspective)
Feb 26: Balakot Airstrike – https://youtu.be/qYiVhbsN_bw
- GS-2: India and its neighbour relations
- GS-3: Defence and Security issues
Context: February 26th marks the third anniversary of the Balakot airstrike which was conducted by Indian Air Force targeting the terrorist camps operating in Balakot town in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
Forty CPRF Jawans lost their lives in the attack when an ED-laden SUV rammed into their convoy. The terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing. The Balakot airstrikes were seen as a direct response to the Pulwama bombing.
- On February 26, 2019, in the wee hours, India carried out airstrikes 12 days after a convoy of vehicles carrying CRPF personnel was attacked by a suicide bomber – plotted by Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pulwama district of Jammu.
- On 14 February last year, 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in the attack. In retaliation, Indian Air Force destroyed the biggest terror training camp of JeM at Balakot on February 26, 2019.
- A dozen IAF Mirage 2000 fighter jets crossed the India-Pakistan border to attack terror camp.
- According to media reports, the terrorist camps at Balakot have undergone a revamp ahead of the first anniversary of the IAF bombings.
- The IAF’s mission to bomb the terrorist hideout in Balakot, Pakistan, was given the codename ‘Operation Bandar’. It was a rare operation in which the IAF crossed the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and dropped bombs on targets in Pakistani territory. Balakot is a small town located in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
- On February 26, 2019, Indian Air Force’s Mirage-2000 fighter jets took off from airbases across India. The Indian Air Force jets crossed the LoC in J&K and bombed Jaish terror camps in Balakot with precision-guided missiles.
- Pakistan retaliated a day after. The Pakistan Air Force attempted an airstrike on Indian soil. The Indian Air Force launched its fighter jets in response, leading to a rare dogfight between the Indian and Pakistani jets. In the skirmish, an IAF MiG-21 Bison fighter jet shot down a Pakistani F-16 during the conflict. Indian Mig-21, which was being flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was also shot down and he was captured by the Pakistani forces. After much deliberation, Wing Commander Abhinandan was released two days later from Pakistan’s hold. This development calmed the tensions between the two nations after two weeks of heightened conflict.
Reflections and Message to the World
Balakot reflected India’s approach against the employment of terrorism as a low-cost option against India.
- Indicated that terrorists, terrorist infrastructure and terrorist training facilities in areas beyond LoC and International Border when employed against India, will no longer be safe haven
- Terrorism will not remain a low-cost option that can proliferate under veiled threats and bogeys that have repeatedly been voiced by irresponsible and ill-informed leaders from across the border
- Balakot will continue to reiterate India’s intent to employ the most appropriate resources for the intended impact, with an element of unpredictability and innovation as an integral part of the endeavour. It is this factor that must remain uppermost in our minds.
India has joined the list of countries along with the United States and Israel who can strike in enemy territory and avenge the death of its soldiers. It sent out a signal to adversaries that India’s response to provocation will no longer be ‘soft’ and only diplomatic. All options were on the table.
The Way Ahead
- Requests placed before the government by the NSG needs to be met. NSG should be made into a complete commando force be it training, modern weapons, facilities of family members among others. The idea is to keep NSG at least two steps ahead of other forces in the world.
- Indian Army has to forge ahead with restructuring the army to allow for faster ground mobilisation and greater flexibility in limited land-based military operations.
- Work on the naval power as well: In the short-term, India is likely to position its naval forces aggressively during a confrontation with Pakistan, as it reportedly did during this crisis and in previous crises. In the long-term, it may explore a naval blockade or land-attack options, though India’s ability to execute decisive missions in its adversary’s territorial waters will be limited and potentially escalatory given Pakistan’s naval nuclear ambitions. Thus, Indian pressure in the Arabian Sea will remain the optimal choice for now.
- There is a need to continue the restrained approach it has adopted after the operation, and avoid the triumphalism that clouded the ‘surgical strikes’ of September 2016.
In the long term, building strong counter-terror defences, partnering with its own citizens to gather intelligence, and creating deterrents will be key.
Can you answer the following questions?
- Balakot airstrikes compelled Pakistan to change its rulebook. Comment.
- India’s longstanding doctrine of restraint has ended, opening up space for more risky Indian retaliation moves against terror attacks like Pulwama. Discuss.