The strikes by Indian Air Force crossing the Line of Control (LoC) on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) camp in Balakot. According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) media briefing, “Credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country, and the fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose. In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became absolutely necessary.” The briefing claimed that its strike on the JeM camp, run by Masood Azar’s brother-in-law Ustad Ghouri, was successful. It was also careful to call the strike a “non-military preemptive action”, and not a retaliation to the Pulwama suicide bombing that killed more than 40 CRPF jawans on February 14. The twitter warriors on both the sides, of course, recognise the air strike for what it was.
Indian Air Force used 12 Mirage 2000 jets, and dropped 1,000 KG laser guided bombs on the JeM Camp in the early hours, claiming heavy casualties.
Pakistan has claimed that its airforce “chased away” the Indian Air Force planes which had crossed the LoC in Muzaffarabad sector, denying that the air strike had caused any damage. Director-General, Inter-Services Public Relations, (DG ISPR) Major-General Asif Ghafoor said on his official Twitter account, “Payload of hastily escaping Indian aircrafts fell in open”, implying no damage.
His tweets have created a confusion of which Balakot has been attacked. If it is near Muzaffarabad in Mansehra District of Khyber Paktoonkhwa, this means that Indian planes flew across PoK, and into Khyber Paktoonkhwa. This would make the intrusion deep into Pakistan and only 140 kilometres from the capital, Islamabad. If Indian planes flew only a few kilometres after crossing the LoC, then – some Pakistani twitter handles argue – it must be Bala Kote near Poonch, and in PoK. This Bala Kote is a few kilometres from the LoC. Based on the Pakistan’s DG ISPR’s tweet mentioning Muzaffarabad sector, it seems likely that it is indeed Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There is confirmation from BBC, who have reported that the attack did take place in Balakot, Khyber Paktoonkhwa and not Bala Kote near the LoC in the Poonch sector.
Imran Khan, the Pakistan PM, after a special meeting of its National Security Committee, rejected India’s “claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot as well as the claim of heavy casualties". He said that domestic and international media would be taken to the impact site to verify its version. He, however, did not make any new response regarding JeM terror camps or action against Azhar Masood.
Pakistan has also said that it will raise this issue of Indian Force strikes on Pakistan in the Security Council. Earlier, a French resolution had been adopted in the Security Council condemning the Pulwama attack.
With this strike, this time in Pakistan territory and not the PoK, the stakes are being raised, with no easy de-escalation in sight. In India, with the elections fast approaching, the India-Pakistan relationship, as well as Kashmir threatens to become an electoral issue. The PM has already been accused by the opposition parties of fishing in the troubled Kashmir waters for electoral dividend. The risk of such a strategy of spinning out of control between two nuclear powers is obvious.
Newsclick would join all others who call for restraint in this deadly game of nuclear chicken between India and Pakistan. Sanity must prevail over war lust and hatred.
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