February 14, 2019: At around 3:30 pm a Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden car into a convoy of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Lethpora near Awantipora, which is in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district. The massive explosion resulted in the tragic death of 40 CRPF soldiers. A stunned and shocked nation was soon seething and the chorus to avenge the death of the bravehearts grew louder.
Cut to February 26, 2019: At around 3:30 am IAF Mirage 2000 fighters armed with Crystal Maze air-to-surface missiles and SPICE-2000 bombs launched a daring non-military pre-emptive strike on terror camps located in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir as well as deep inside the Pakistani mainland. In just about 21 minutes, three terror camps belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammed had been obliterated and over 300 terrorists killed as the Mirage jets rained their lethal arsenal on them.
“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. In an intelligence led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups 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,” said Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale.
In a space of just 11 days and 12 hours, India not only avenged the death of the 40 CRPF soldiers but by sending its fighter jets across the Line of Control and into the Pakistani territory, given a loud and clear message that no attack planned and executed from an enemy soil will go unpunished. The February 26 air raids showed Pakistan that India is willing to escalate and take the fight against terror into enemy territory.
Just a few hours after the attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Rajasthan’s Churu where he warned Pakistan against fomenting trouble in India. Calling it a historic day, Modi assured the citizens that “the nation is in safe hands”. “I appeal to all of you to salute our soldiers today. I assure you all that the country is in safe hands. I promise that I will not let the nation down,” he added.
In an unprecedented move, the IAF raids were acknowledged by the Pakistani defence forces much before India did so. But it was just to save its face as the Pakistani armed forces spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor admitted that Indian fighters did intrude into their airspace by crossing the LoC but were forced to retreat.
He, however, claimed that their forces will retaliate to the Indian challenge. “Today, the prime minister has asked everyone to get ready for every eventuality. We are all ready. Now it is time for India to wait for our response. The response will come at a point and time of our choosing where our civil-military leadership decides, and as a matter of fact, has decided,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gave the green signal to carry out the airstrikes, met Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba along with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and other senior Cabinet colleagues to review the defence preparedness in the event of any retaliation from Pakistan.
The government received whole-hearted support of all the leaders present for its daring decision to bomb terror camps in Pakistan during the all-party meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday evening where External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj briefed them about the IAF operation.
Together with September 29, 2016, surgical strikes by Indian Army’s para commandos and special forces following the attack on an Army camp in Uri, the IAF raids on Tuesday morning India has told Pakistan in unambiguous terms – stop exporting terror or face the music.