Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter planes destroyed a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist camp in a pre-dawn strike on Tuesday in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s province after penetrating deep across the road of control (LoC) to enter Pakistani airspace for the first time in 48 years.
Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale described the air strike — in which government officials said over 300 terrorists, trainers and commanders could have been killed — as “non-military pre-emptive action”.
Gokhale aforesaid the strike by Mirage 2000 jets at around 3:30 am was ordered on the basis of credible intelligence that the Pakistan-based JeM, which claimed responsibility for the February 14 suicide automobile bombing that claimed the lives of forty Indian paramilitary troops in Kashmir, planned to hold out suicide attacks in various parts of India. He stressed that the attack on the group’s biggest terrorist camp, set in the town of Balakot, was undertaken in self-defence.
“The selection of the target was also conditioned by our want to avoid civilian casualties. It’s set in the deep forest on a top,” Gokhale said.
The camp was headed by Yusuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghauri, the brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar, Gokhale said. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told an all-party meeting within the evening that Indian intelligence had reason to believe Yusuf Azhar was at the ability during the strike, according to officers aware of the discussions. Azhar was one of the militants behind the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC 814 in 1999 to free Masood Azhar from Indian custody.
It was unclear if he was killed in the air strike.
Swaraj also told the all-party meeting that Indian jets had penetrated 80 miles (130 km) into the LoC. The meeting was also attended by finance minister Arun Jaitley and home minister Rajnath Singh.
Pakistan said on Tuesday that Indian aircraft “intruded” into its airspace, dropped their payload hastily when its own warplanes scrambled into action and returned while not causing any casualties or damage. It warned that it’d respond to the Indian “act of aggression” at a time and place of its choosing.
“I assure you that the nation is in safe hands,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a gathering of ex-servicemen in Rajasthan’s Churu in the afternoon, while not referring to the air strikes. “I won’t let this country down.”
“My soul says today is that the day to reiterate what I had said in 2014. I swear by my land I won’t let my country be destroyed. I’ll not let the country stop. I will not let the country bow. I pledge to the motherland that I’ll not let her head down,” said Modi, who briefed the president and the vice president on the operation.
Most nations that reacted to Tuesday’s strikes, including the UK, China and the European Union, asked India and Pakistan to exercise restraint. France aforesaid it “recognises India’s legitimacy to confirm its security against cross-border terrorism” and asked Pakistan to place a finish to operations of terrorist teams established on its territory.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi welcomed the cross-border action.
In a tweet, he wrote: “I salute the IAF pilots.” West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted: “IAF conjointly means India’s amazing Fighters. Jai Hind.”
“Today’s strong action shows the will and resolve of a new India. Our New India won’t spare any acts of terror and their perpetrators and patrons,” Amit Shah, president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said.
Though India’s Mirage jets crossed the LoC in 2002 over a border dispute, this is often the first time the Indian Air Force crossed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and entered Pakistani airspace to drop a bomb since the 1971 war for the liberation of Bangladesh.
The IAF used Mirage-2000 jets carrying missiles and guided bombs to target the JeM camp spread over seven acres, individuals with data of the event aforesaid. The air force also deployed Sukhoi 30MKIs, that were used as decoys as they flew towards Bhawalpur, the city where JeM is headquartered. These jets were conjointly meant to double up as reinforcements in case the Pakistanis intercepted the Mirages, these people added.
On Tuesday morning, a couple of hours once the attack, a Pakistani unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was shot down close to the International Border in tannin district of Gujarat. Gujarat and Punjab are now on high alert in wake of the air strikes.
According to analysts, the strike confirmed that India would deploy full-spectrum deterrence if it absolutely was attacked by any Pakistan-based terror cluster. One diplomat referred to the September 2016 surgical strikes conducted on terrorist camps across the LoC days once an attack in Uri left 19 Indian soldiers dead. “The Modi government created it clear from Uri 2016 that each terror strike will be met with retaliation,” the diplomat aforesaid, asking to not be named. “The question in the past was ought to us or ought to we not. Currently, it’s once, wherever and how.”
The February 14 suicide car bombing on the Jammu-Srinagar highway left 40 Central Reserve police force (CRPF) troopers dead. Modi aforesaid once the attack that he had given the Indian military a free hand to retaliate at a time and place of their choosing.
The Indian Air Force on Tuesday placed on high alert all air defence systems on the international border and also the LoC to retort to possible action by the Pakistan Air Force. National security advisor Ajit Doval, alongside Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat and IAF chief Air Chief Marshall Bachelor of Science Dhanoa, reviewed the safety state of affairs on the borders.
Modi chaired a gathering of the cupboard Committee on Security (CCS) attended by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, home minister Rajnath Singh and minister Arun Jaitley. NSA Doval conjointly attended the meeting. Gokhale briefed foreign diplomats on the operation.
“They [Pakistan leadership] say they want India to bleed with a thousand cuts. We say that each time you attack us, be certain we will go back to at you, harder and stronger. Salute the brave pilots of the IAF that carried out the strikes,” minister of state for external affairs and former army chief VK Singh said.