Balakot – Strategic milestone with decisive impact

Rajan Gandhi
India, particularly Jammu and Kashmir, is facing the brunt of Islamic Jehad perpetrated by Pakistan for last more than three decades. Grenade attacks, IED blasts, fidayeen attacks, targeting family members of forces, stone pelting, religious cleansing with the migration of lakhs of KPs from Kashmir and more recently mob lynching. Thousands have lost their lives, hundreds of temples vandalized, left over properties of KPs encroached profoundly with Kashmir dangerously turning a homogenous society and more alarmingly even Kashmir based political parties towing the same agenda openly. Kashmir politics became musical chair between NC and PDP with Congress enjoying power with both of them since independence. Rampant corruption with least development agenda has caused continuous agony to people of J&K. Right after BJP coming to power course of events unraveled Pakistan’s intent with Pathankot airbase terrorist attack, Uri terror attack, Sunjwan, Nagrota, Gurdaspur terror attacks, it just seemed that it’s going to be never ending cycle of terrorism by Pakistan despite surgical strikes by Indian army after Uri terror act and repeated warnings of dire consequences by India. But as in the past Pakistan never understood the language of peace or brotherhood and as such dared to plot Pulwama suicide attack but the resultant aftermath has totally changed the game between India and Pakistan.
Till Pulwama terror attack Nuclear Pakistan was playing ‘Crazy Bad Man’ calling bluff after bluff for last twenty years and the whole world was trying to withhold India to avoid nuclear flash point escalation. It all started from the days of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto days when famous tagline was ‘we will eat grass but will make Islamic Nuclear Bomb’ and all Gulf Countries, be it Saudi Arabia or Iran or Iraq to name a few, supported Pakistan with a dream to use this ‘Islamic Bomb’ against Israel or America one day. With Russian invasion of Afghanistan, America fully backed Pakistan for its strategic interests in Asia. Pakistan had dream run of undisputed ‘Don of Asia’. While the whole world was peaceful India started to feel the pinch of thousand razor cuts through waged proxy war via terrorism in Kashmir. No one sided with India practically except some lip services by few. And internally in India till now every PM of India toed the line of Pakistan doctrine of first use of nuclear weapons in case of attack by India.
In between this Kashmir turmoil Government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee took oath in 1998 and Pakistan anxiously awaited to gauge the mood of Vajpayee government and their worst fear came true when India conducted three nuclear tests on May 11th, 1998 to declare it ‘Yes India is nuclear’. Pakistan also conducted its own nuclear tests to declare their arrival also. America supported Pakistan with Presidential waiver after waiver to provide them military equipment despite being nuclear and non member of NPT treaty while India stood isolated. Vajpayee’s cryptic remark while addressing a public rally in Punjab that Pakistan should never think that India would wait for them to use nuclear weapons before retaliating caused a lot of consternation and rattled Pakistan. But the moment PM Vajpayee offered Lahore bus service game of prediction was over. Firstly during Kargil war Air force never crossed LOC and secondly standoff at border when Indian Army moved to border for more than two months after Parliament attack but never crossed the international border and the bluff masters of Pakistan made a mockery of the standoff. International community pressurized India only to get back army to barracks despite Pakistan openly sponsoring terrorism in India. Vajpayee lost 2004 elections and ten years of Manmohan Singh era was again nothing different including diplomatic failure at Sharm El Sheikh declaration in which India accepted not to interfere in Baluchistan affairs of Pakistan. Meantime world woke up after 9/11 attack to feel the devil called terrorism which India was already facing for last twenty years, yes international terrorism had arrived with a bang.
But as they say miseries of low morale fighters never end so was the case of India as despite America acting against terrorism and came all along to Afghanistan in search of Bin Laden but unfortunately for India again Pakistan became the favorite ally of America against its war on terror despite Pakistan itself indulging in terrorism in Kashmir. Bin Laden was found hiding in Pakistan itself but American support for Pakistan never dwindled as their support was required again to fight Taliban now, a mockery whole world saw and it was just like rubbing salt on wounds of India. Pakistan poked again with Mumbai attack which started on 26th November and lasted until 29th November 2008. At least 174 people died, including nine attackers and more than three hundred were wounded but Indian response as usual was meek and weak, what followed again was dossier after dossier diplomacy despite the fact that one Pakistani Ajmal Kasab was caught alive but again India faltered to face the situation with iron hand or raise the cost of terrorism for Pakistan.
Then came the 2014 elections and with the elevation of Modi as PM whole Pakistani establishment was again hysterical keeping in view his hardliner image. But PM Modi made many attempts to engage Pakistan in a dialogue including invitation to PM Nawaz Sharif for his oath ceremony or paying a surprise visit at Nawaz Sharif’s family wedding function. His these overtures convinced Pakistani hawks again that PM Modi would also follow the set rules laid by them and thus Pathankot airbase attack happened on 2nd January 2016 followed by Uri attack on 18th September 2016 and the subsequent surgical strike was India’s first retaliatory response and for the first time Pakistanis got a little rattled but since that was a specific strike Pakistanis brazened it to the extent that nothing happened. Pakistan dared again to strike on 14th February 2019 at Pulwama and more than 40 CRPF jawans lost their lives leaving whole India shell shocked. With ensuing elections staring India struck back with airstrikes at Balakot. But this airstrike was more than just an attack as for the first time since 1971 India crossed the LOC that too deep inside Pakistan without any resistance as all aircrafts returned back safely after targeting the assigned targets. Subsequent Pakistani air raid was an attempt to restore the deterrence in which they failed miserably and got one of their F16 shot down by a Mig-21.
Undeniable is the fact that for PM Modi it was Zugzwang moment, he had no option but to act and India raised the ante in the face of another provocation from Pakistan. The rules of the game have changed drastically as their nuclear blackmail bluff has been called out. The message conveyed to Pakistan is clear that if they can play crazy, India can play crazier. India not only just crossed the LoC but also the international border and struck deep in proper Pakistan. All those who were warning of a nuclear holocaust suddenly seemed to be singing a different tune now and the way India got back its pilot within 48 hours speaks about the impact on ground. The very fact that Pakistanis were telling the international community that the Indian Navy was moving towards Karachi, India was poised to launch missile strikes, the Indian Air Force was in an offensive mode and army units were being mobilized was a clear indication that they felt that there was more coming their way. Shutting down of air space altogether, PM Imran’s televised speech asking for peace point out to only one thing Pakistan predicted it wrong this time.
Clearly Post-Pulwama, India with decisive leadership opted for drastic counter action, as Pakistan’s bankruptcy won’t be enough to stop it from its jihadist addiction. Not only air strikes but even water blockade is on the card. Red line has been drawn by BJP government which now all subsequent governments have to follow and Pakistan’s Crazy Nuke Man Theory has been completely cracked. We avenged their martyrdom and with abrogation of Article 370 and J&K now UT, paradigm has changed, getting POK is now the new targeted focus. Message is clear for Pakistan, the moment you cross the red line we will cross Rubicon and then be ready to pay the price and with this PM Modi has delivered where all his predecessors had failed, a strategic milestone with decisive impact.