Operation Balakote: Why Erode India’s Glory?

K B Jandial
Can’t our politicians allow the nation to bask in the glory of Air Surgical strike at Jaish training Camp at Balakote in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the wee hours of 26 February, 2019? This moment of glory was given to the nation by 12 Air Force warriors flying Mirage 2000H fighter jets through their unprecedented and remarkable punitive air strike at the indented targets, about 80 km deep into Pakistan. It was ‘Bharat ke Maan’ ke baat. With India becoming the third country in the world, after Israel and US, to successfully undertake such air operation deep in the adversary’s territory to avenge the killing of its

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citizens(martyrdom of 44 CRPF men at Pulwama)and restore the national honour. Isn’t it enough for our politicians to join and celebrate with the proud nation? But the fact is that strategical and diplomatic gains are threatened to be eroded by Govt-Opposition political slugfest on Balakote operation and number of causalities. But the truth would survive.
Some of these politicians are interested either in capitalizing the valour of the Forces or finding faults in everything and confronting the Govt/ IAF with Pakistan’s propaganda mill to politically corner Modi.The Prime Minister is obviously riding high on the crescendo following unprecedented Air Surgical strike that manifests a major shift in India’s strategic policy to cross the border, first time in no-war situation.
Some opposition leaders went to the extent of eulogizing Pak PM Imran Khan for his “peace overtures” and echoed Pakistan’s Parliament resolution for Nobel Peace prize to Imran Khan for releasing captured Indian Pilot Wg Cdr Abhinandan. Imran’s quest for peace is exposed by Pak army’s continuous shelling on civilian places in Poonch and Rajouri sectors and sending unmanned Drones to Indian space with ulterior motive, two of these have been shot down. But his ‘friends’ in India still paint him ‘peacenik’ and trying to corner Modi on different aspects of air strikes, asking for proof like of killing of Osama Bin Laden, forgetting that US Navy SEALs raided and killed him right in his room during hand to hand fight at Abbottabad and took away his dead body. Was Indian operation similar raid where bodies could have been brought along? Some silly debate is going on in a foolish quest for proof of bodies.
It is no less diplomatic feat that none in the international community has raised even a finger on India’s”anti-terrorism preventive move” across the border. In fact, it had tacit approval of US and other world powers. It is also victory of Modi’s West Asia policy with increased friendship ties with Saudis, UAE, Iran and Israel. It is in this context one needs to appreciate the invitation to Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and her address at the inaugural session of OIC at Abu Dhabi as Guest of Honour despite Pakistan’s strong opposition and sitting out in protest. Three permanent members- US, UK & France have moved a resolution in Security Council on 27 February to declare Jaish Chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist and freeze its assets with arms embargo and it is likely to come up for deliberation after ten days. Earlier three moves were vetoed by Pakistan’s all- weather ally, China butIndia hopes to see its change of mind this time.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), intergovernmental body of 37 countries set up in 1989 as a watchdog on terror funding,has in its meeting on 22 February, 2019 criticised Pakistan for not demonstrating “a proper understanding” of terror financing and sought compliance of its10-point directions on funding terror groups. FATF’s President, Marshall Billingslea of US has called upon all countries to choke fund supply to terror groups and condemned Pulwama terror strike and added these attacks “cannot occur without money and the means to move funds between terrorist supporters”.
Imran Khan’s much hyped “ban” on terrorists groups and their network on the eve of FATF meeting to soften the global criticism on Jaish claiming responsibility for Pulwama terror strike, too found to be lame duck as it came out to be on’watch list’ rather than ban. Cornered from all sides, Imran Khan is trying to give a message to international community of “crackdown” on some of the terrorist groups including Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa & its subsidiary Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation and took Masood Azhar’s son and brother under “protective custody”. While apparently it is to create certain amount of goodwill at international level but why keep them in “protective custody”? Is it to protect them from any possible Indian strike on them?
Be that be, such “crackdowns” are not new as these groups re-emerged under new banners and carry on terrorism in Kashmir. Going by the past experience, India can’t trust Pakistan unless there are verifiable actions and that’s why it continues to exert international pressure. Taking advantage of the developing situation, India is insisting dismantling of terror camps in PoK. World powers especially US are worried on escalation between two nuclear neighbours and thus, working overtime to de-escalate the tension.
Return of Wg Cdr Abhinandan to India within three days is yet another victory of Indian diplomacy. Things moved fast only when US spoke directly Pak army chief, Gen Bajwa and Saudis too exerted its influence to avoid further escalation. Wg Cdr Abhinandan had landed with parachute in PoK after his MiG was hit by a missile from F-16 jet which was downed by him and its Pak pilot Shahaz-ud-Din later succumbed to injuries in a Pak hospital, un-acknowledging his sacrifice but that’s Pakistan style.Pakistan’s opposition leaders didn’t slam Imran for causality of pilot Shahaz-ud-Din, son of retired Air Marshal and loss of one F-16 costing huge money. Was it possible in India? We in India revel in creating suspicion even on glory.
Air strike at Balakote was a huge paradigm shift from the status quo in Indo-Pak relations that gave a new template which the successive Govts would find it difficult to alter in future terror strikes. The Indian Defence Forces earlier too, had this capability for any such Strikes which they have demonstrated twice (once a popular demand of Dr. Farooq Abdullah) but it is the political will of the Govt that makes the difference.
This proud moment will gradually fade into history but, going by the acrimony between Modi and Opposition leaders, Balakote operation would continue to dominate Lok Sabha election in one way or the other. Unfortunately, India’s apolitical Defence Forces are coming in the political cross-fire. Is the number of trainees killed at Balakote facility more important than undertaking a successful air strike deep in Pakistan? The liberals may take Pakistan and International media’s word as ‘gospel’ truth but how can they discredit Italian journalist Francesca Marino (Firstpost & NEWS18) who quoted eye witnesses to report that they saw shifting of 35 to 40 dead bodies in a truck? She was not Indian agent. How about conservation intercepted saying our (Jaish) facility has been bombed.The damage caused to the facility by Israel’s 2000 missiles is abundantly clear in satellite images which TV channels have flashed. Now, Govt is quoting National Technical Research Organisation to say that itrecorded about 300 cell phones active at that facility on that night.
Even Pakistan is taking undue interest in the elections and BJP would use it against Opposition leaders who are publically seeking proof and speaking well of Imran Khan. Some leaders believe in Imran and Pakistan media but quiet on their attempts to hide use of F-16 jet fighters and AMRAAM missiles against India in violation of pact with US and loss of one F-16 jet which US is investigating. They have a habit of demeaning India and its institutions for petty political gains but they are sure to face voters’ wrath.
While India has scored an unprecedented advantage against Pakistan, this alone would not suffice in retrieving situation in Kashmir. Pakistan has been able to bleed India only because Kashmir is fertile area for such machinations. Lack of political outreach in Kashmir (internal dimension) constitutes a roadblock that is held against Modi Govt. With Pakistan under global watch list and pressure mounted on its proxies within J&K, it is time for the Govt to open channels of engagement in Kashmir. It is not necessarily starting a dialogue but also creating enough opportunities for vulnerable youth to get engaged in some gainful avocation.
Mufti Sayeed had created self-help groups for engaging the educated youth in productive ventures but these have run out of use. The pace of development has slowed down in Kashmir with all out focus on security issues, and whatever projects being launched are rolled out to friends or relations of the mainstream politicians, bureaucrats, policemen or influential families and that too on higher pricing. The ordinary youth, devoid of any other opportunity, continue to be easily available fodder for Pakistan and its proxies for exploitation. After all, the fidayeen who slammed the RDX laden car into CRPF convey at Pulwama was a local boy. It is time to integrate security strategies with job creation and respecting local political human resource to create a congenial environment in Kashmir without giving in to their blackmailing, if any. Impending elections should not come in way of fresh outreach as these things can be pushed in by the Governor and his team of advisors quietly.
Unfortunate harassment to Kashmiri students in some of the educational institutions in few States in the aftermath of Pulwama massacre didn’t auger well for winning the hearts and minds of Kashmiri youth. Even if the number of such incidents is small, the impact is huge. The concerned authorities should have taken preventive steps. Now back in Kashmir, they narrate incidents that fuel further alienation. Steps should be taken to send them back to their institutions. Even these youth should be counseled against airing anything by their actions or on social media that run counter to Indian sentiments. They have to conduct themselves in a manner that put them beyond the realm of suspicion in the backdrop of daily unsavoury incidents back in Kashmir, their personal views notwithstanding. No politician have ever counseled these youth on these lines. They should know that their harmonious integration with Indian nation is equally important and constructive for them too as their future lies in this great nation and not in failed State of Pakistan.
(feedback: kbjandial@gmail.com)