Tuesday, the 26th day of February 2019 will remain etched in the memories of Indians for a very long time. It is on this day that the nation flexed its muscles in airspace by deploying a squadron of Indian Air Force (IAF) that crossed the line of control across Pakistan, bombed pre-selected terrorist training camps with precision and came back safely. Capability to conduct such punitive air strikes has hitherto been the preserve of select super powers such as the United States, Russia, UK and their coalitions. India now joins this club.
The exact nature of devastation caused by the squadron of Mirage 2000s will be known only after a few days, but initial assessments suggest that over 350 terrorists from the Jaish-e-Mohammad’s tribe have been eliminated. This is the highest number of Islamic terrorists eliminated by India in a single strike on a single day, till date.
The Jaish training camp was tucked safely across the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir at Balakot in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It was a garrison depot that doubled up as the terrorist training camp replete with a huge cache of arms and ammunition. Most importantly it was the base station of top leadership of Jaish-e-Mohammad. The laser-guided bombs from Mirage 2000s have eliminated Jaish’s commander Maulana Ammar, Talha Saif, Ibrahim Azhar (brothers of Jaish chief Masood Azhar) and Yusuf Azahar (Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law) along with other Jaish terrorists. Ironically, except Masood Azhar, who had masterminded the Pulwama terrorist attack, his entire terror apparatus at Jaish has been wiped out.
More than military success, this air strike gives a distinct psychological victory to Indians, both for the armed forces and to the general populace. For too long our armed forces had remained sitting ducks, thanks to the spineless political leadership who just buckled under international pressure, earning India the sobriquet of being a soft state. This emboldened Islamic terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan who thought their strategy of bleeding India through a thousand cuts will indeed bring them that elusive victory in Kashmir.
Ordering the Indian Air Force to avenge Pulwama terror attacks have shown to the world that now there’s a decisive leadership in New Delhi who has spine, also has guts and is willing to take calculated risks.
In fact, targets chosen by the Indian Air Force were not civilian areas, nor were they Pakistani defence establishments, New Delhi rather chose to bomb at pin-pointed locations where Jasih-e-Mohammad had been running its terrorist training camp for several years.
In strategic terms, this air strike has placed Pakistan on a sticky wicket. It is caught in the classic bind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Consider this: If Pakistan starts beating its chest and goes ahead to tell the world about specific details of the damage and the list of all those slain terrorists, it will then mean a tacit acceptance on its part of harbouring terrorists in its backyard. Most of the terrorists killed in the air strike were on international watch list. Alternatively, if Pakistan does not tell the world and remains in a denial mode claiming there was no destruction due to bombings, then it will have no justifiable reason to launch a military offensive against India. In this scenario it cedes that psychological edge to India in this proxy war.
For India, this is just the beginning and such strikes deep within the Pakistani territory need to happen at a regular frequency, only then will there be a complete destruction of Islamist terrorist havens within Pakistani soil.
Of course, we have managed to neutralise over 350 terrorists at just one of the terrorist training schools. And this is no small number. The actual number of terrorists killed could be even larger when full details of the damage emerges.
However, in this euphoria we need to pause and reflect as to why these 350 terrorists were being trained by Jaish-e-Mohhamad. They had no personal enmity with India or Indian security forces, yet they were holed up at Balakot, had been indoctrinated and possibly over the next few days a few would have sneaked inside the Indian territory to blow themselves up. The motivation for all these terrorists is the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam and its cult-like virulent ideology that glorifies death. It’s this Wahhabi death-cult, which the likes of Masood Azhar and his ilk exploit to the hilt.
And this is where our war begins. A squadron of Mirage 2000 conducting air strikes, dropping 1000 kilogram bombs, flattening the entire terrorist training camp is just about winning one battle. Yes, more than the military victory it is indeed a psychological victory for us, there’s no denying this fact. Yet, India cannot afford to slacken its efforts in this proxy war against Islamic terrorism that has been going on for the last three decades. Rather, this is an opportune time to intensify our efforts when Islamists in Pakistan are on a back-foot.
In all the wars that India fought with Pakistan, whether the overt wars of 1947, 1965, 1971 or the limited Kargil War of 1999, India won decisively and Pakistan Army was decimated. The 1971 war resulted in splitting of Pakistan into two and the creation of a separate sovereign state — Bangladesh. All these facts are well documented, but despite this, the Pakistani Army and its stooge, ISI, have been shouting their lungs out to its gullible audience that Pakistan Army that comprises of the soldiers of Islam were on the verge of winning these wars against infidel India when international pressure forced them to abandon their war mid-way. It is this dubious narrative that the Pakistani Generals have successfully sold to its gullible populace and it is taken further by the Masood Azhars and the Hafiz Saeeds, who indoctrinate youngsters to rise and fight against an infidel India. These false narratives coupled with virulent Wahhabi ideology binds Islamists from different regions together. The adhesive strength of radical Islamism can be gauged from the fact that a Bangladeshi boy quickly forgets that it were these Pakistan Army soldiers (then West Pakistan) who had raped and killed millions of Bangladeshi women during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war (then East Pakistan). He has no qualms in joining hands with Bangladesh’s erstwhile tormentors to wage jihad against an infidel India.
This is the nature of larger Islamic war that has been thrust upon India. This is how the numerous terrorism factories spread across Pakistan continue to have a steady supply of terrorists. India needs to factor these elements while strategizing further.
Yes, we have won the Balakot battle but the war against radical Islamists is still on. We just cannot afford to put our guards down.