On Tuesday, the Indian Air Force (IAF) crossed the Line of Control (LoC) to carry out military strikes against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a Pakistan-based terror group that took responsibility for the attack in Pulwama.
Around 3:30am, around a dozen Mirage 2000 fighter jets dropped bombs on terror camps in Balakot, reports say.
In a statement, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said, “JeM has been active in Pakistan for the last two decades, and is led by MASOOD AZHAR with its headquarters in Bahawalpur.”
He added that despite providing information to Pakistan regarding the location of the terrorist training camps, “Pakistan has taken no concrete actions to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil.”
The move has garnered praise for the Modi administration.
In a press briefing, Gokhale also said, “The government of india is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all the necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism.”
How the strikes were carried out
IAF jets crossed the LoC to enter Balakot 12 days after JeM bombed a convoy of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). 40 CRPF jawans were killed in the process.
The LoC is the “control line” between India and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. This is not a legal boundary, but a military demarcation that both countries consider a de-facto border.
According to Gokhale, India received “credible intelligence” that JeM was attempting more attacks across the country. Hence, the strikes by the IAF were a necessary “preemptive” measure.
The strikes hit training camps at Balakot and killed “a large number” of JeM terrorists, trainers, and senior commanders, he said. NDTV reported that around 300 terrorists were killed.
ANI reports that flags of the US, UK, and Israel were painted on the steps of the base.
Gokhale said that this target was chosen to avoid civilian casualties as it is located in a forested area, away from any hubs.
Indian leaders have come out in droves to congratulate Prime Minister Modi and the IAF.
Mamata Banerjee, who has been critical of Modi’s handling of the Pulwama attack, said, “IAF also means India’s Amazing Fighters. Jai Hind”.
Amit Shah said, “Today’s action further demonstrates that India is safe and secure under the strong & decisive leadership of PM”.
Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted salutations to the IAF.
Four hours ago, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held a meeting to discuss the situation in Kashmir.
OIC Assistant Secretary General for Economic Affairs Amb. Hameed Opeloyeru addressed the gathering and said, “with every human and international law violation by the #Indian occupation forces, our commitment to our Kashmiri brethren becomes even stronger.”
India was recently invited, for the first time, to be the guest of honour at the OIC’s 46th session in the United Arab Emirates.
Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah said that the IAF has made a tit-for-tat move after JeM’s attack. “It’s now time for cooler heads to prevail. War is never an ideal option to resolve disputes”, he said.
A few minutes ago, NDTV reported that the Pakistani army violated the ceasefire along the LoC with heavy firing of mortars and small arms. The Indian army is currently retaliating.
Prior to this, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan asked the country’s armed forces and civilians to “remain prepared for all eventualities”.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that India has “conducted a violation of the Line of Control and Pakistan reserves the right to an appropriate response.”
Spokesperson for the Pakistani Armed Forces (PAF) Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted a response to the strike by the IAF. His words directly contradict Gokhale’s statement.
He said, “Indian aircrafts’ intrusion across LOC in Muzafarabad Section within AJ&K was 3-4 miles. Under forced hasty withdrawal aircrafts released payload which had free fall in open area. No infrastructure got hit, no casualties”
Ghafoor also said that the PAF “immediately scrambled” the IAF and forced the aircrafts to go back.
The Pakistani government has released images of an open, forested area claiming that the IAF missed their target and hit that spot, not any populated camps.
Pakistani journalists took to Twitter to question Ghafoor’s version of events.
Reporter Mehreen Zahra-Malik said, “Not immediately clear if @OfficialDGISPR is referring to Balakot, town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan about 30 miles from the Line of Control, or de facto border between the two countries, orr another small town called Balakot in Pakistan-administered #Kashmir.”
Another reporter Gharidah Farooqi also said there was confusion about which Balakot the general was referring to. She added that a delay of information from the Pakistani government is not an effective strategy.
Journalist Mohammad Taqi questioned why PAF wasn’t able to shoot any IAF aircraft down
The Quint reports that a Pakistani aerial device- possibly a drone- was shot down at 6:30 am in Gujarat’s Kutch district.
Police Sub Inspector of Kothra Police Station VR Ulwa said that the IAF has taken over the matter and is maintaining strict confidentiality. He added that even local police does not have any information.
Therefore, other than the firing at the LoC, we cannot conclusively say that Pakistani forces have made a military retaliation.
Experts have speculated that military action against Pakistan so close to the general election is a sureshot way for the Modi government to secure another term.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Raveesh Kumar said that EA Minister Sushma Swaraj has convened an All Party Meeting this evening.
Rhea Arora is a staff writer at Qrius.