New Delhi: India conducted a major pre-emptive strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp across the border, killing a "very large number" of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said on Tuesday. He said the "intelligence-led operation" on the Pakistan-based terror group's biggest training camp in Balakot became "absolutely necessary" as it was planning more suicide attacks in India.
Here’s why this strike marks a paradigm shift in India’s counter-terrorism approach.
1. India, for the first time, has broken a self-imposed psychological barrier of not resorting to first aerial attack. That a dozen IAF jets could fly past Pakistani air defences undetected, penetrate up to 100 km into hinterland, and return home safely, sends across a message that no place in Pakistan is safe: neither Islamabad nor their military capital Rawalpindi.
2. Just two days ago, Pakistan Army PR chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had given a belligerent press conference in Islamabad saying India can initiate any kind of aggression, but the right of escalation would remain with Pakistan. In layman terms, he was threatening a nuclear retaliation should India violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. The bold strike by a dozen IAF jets has called the recurring nuclear bluff of Islamabad. The message: do what you want to do, we will not be cowed anymore by any kind of threat.
3. By carefully choosing the main Jaish terror training camp located deep in a forest area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, India has also demonstrated that it has the ground-level intel capabilities to strike at terror targets without incurring civilian casualties. Any strike at Lashkar HQ in Muridke near Lahore or Jaish HQ in Bahawalpur in south Punjab would have incurred heavy casualties since the complexes also host huge civilian establishments, for instance, like madrassas.
4. The successful strike also establishes IAF’s technical superiority and proves it is second to none. Penetrating deep and returning safe means IAF deployed high-powered jammers that emasculated Pakistan’s US-made radar defences. The operation was also laser targeted to minimize any civilian casualties.
5. That no international player has criticised India for the action signals a victory for days of painstaking parleys undertaken by India’s diplomatic establishment with US and Russia, and probably Iran and Israel. New Delhi is calling it a ‘non-military pre-emptive strike’, a new entry in our diplomatic arsenal, which leaves multiple options open to inflict pain on non-state actors in the face of provocations like Uri or Pulwama.