In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of February 26, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation,
a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainer, senior commanders and group of Jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated. This facility at Balakot was headed by MAULANA YOUSUF AZHAR (alias USTAD GHOURI), the brother-in-law of MASOOD AZHAR, Chief of JeM.
The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism. Hence this non-military pre-emptive action was specifically
targeted at the JeM camp. The facility is located in thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence. As the strike has taken place only a short while ago, we are awaiting further details.
The Government of Pakistan had made a solemn commitment in January 2004 not to allow its soil or territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India. We expect that Pakistan lives
up to its public commitment and takes follow up actions to dismantle all JeM and other camps and hold the terrorist accountable for the actions.
Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan was summoned on February 27, 2019, by Ministry of External Affairs, India to lodge a strong protest at the unprovoked act of aggression by Pakistan against India, including by violation of the Indian air space by Pakistan
Air Force and targeting of Indian military posts.
It is evident from tone and tenor of this statement that words chosen were extremely balanced,
responsible and well calibrated. Pakistan’s geostrategic position and nuisance potential if deflects towards instability tended to prevent the big powers from clearly supporting India openly. Nevertheless, the US and western powers were supportive
to India to a large extent as were smaller countries. US, UK, and France reportedly have served an ultimatum to China until April 23, 2019, to lift its “technical hold” on designating Pakistan based JeM Chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.
China assured the world on April 17, by stating that the vexed issue was “moving towards a settlement”.
After the Pulwama attack,
a fresh proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK, and the US. However, China blocked the bid by putting a “technical hold” on the proposal. Following
this, the US backed by the UK and France moved directly to the UN Security Council (UNSC) to blacklist Azhar. China, a veto-wielding member of the UNSC, had opposed the move, saying the issue should be resolved at the 1267 Committee itself, which also
functions under the top UN body.
China seems to have put its all eggs into the Pakistani basket. It considers this an investment for
the expansion of its future economic empire. The West Indian Ocean region is a crucial area for China’s strategic interests. It would therefore not allow India a major diplomatic victory through complete international isolation of Pakistan.
Absence of any major support from Russia to India had actually been intriguing. However, the reason for this could be attributed to Russia’s
defense interests in China following the dictum ‘A friend’s friend’ notwithstanding India’s Rs 39,000 crore S-400 deal.
On February 27 Pakistan launched an air attack into Indian Territory which nonetheless was effectively thwarted by Indian Air
Force. During the skirmish, both sides lost an aircraft each. A Mig-21 Bison (Bis upgrade) and an F-16. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was flying Mig-21 reported the radar lock on an enemy aircraft and fired an R-73 Russian origin
missile just as he himself was hit. Pakistani social media reported another aircraft downed with two pilots parachuting. Later the report was found to be false propaganda.
The debris of an AMRAAM missile was recovered on the Indian side. It was presumed that this advanced missile made by Raytheon company belonged to an F-16, for which it was officially sold to the Pakistan Air
Force (PAF). What was notable was the fact that despite the Indian incursion and the dogfight, both the sides issued measured official statements not to escalate the tension, while at the same time continuing to maintain their forces on a high state
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale went out of the way to emphasize that while both the sides lost an aircraft each,
the IAF incursion was non-military and that IAF aircraft had been directed to hit only the terror sanctuaries of Jaish-e-Muhammad, the terror group that claims repeated attacks on India. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan also called for peace and announced that pilot of the Indian Mig-21 who had parachuted into the Pakistani side and was captured, would be returned to India as a goodwill
gesture. He made this announcement despite tremendous pressure and advice from Muslim clerics to the contrary. PM Imran Khan also stated that Pakistan did not want war.