By allowing the Indian Air Force to hit deep within Pakistani territory to avenge the terror attack in Pulwama on CRPF jawans, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again underscored his resolve to fight the enemy with a tit-for-tat policy after the surgical strike following the terror attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri. This operation was more adventurous, as it was not Pakistan-occupied Kashmir where the IAF’s Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft hit; it was Balakot in the Mansehra district of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Much as the Imran Khan government tried to make light of the airstrike, saying no infrastructure has been damaged by the strikes neither were there casualties, this is a hit on Pakistani pride and also a shame for Pakistan’s military that fails to either take lessons from the series of defeats in the hands of the Indian counterpart since 1947-48 or to improve its preparedness for war. Nothing is more ignominious for a regular force than the fact that 12 jets of 1980s vintage from this side proved more than a match for them in their territory guarded by many squadrons of American fighter planes. Imagine the plight of Pakistan when India presses into action its Sukhoi Su-30MKI and, from the next year onwards, Rafale fighter planes that have awed experts the world over in dogfights.
With the sanction for the strikes on Balakot, Modi has addressed the core constituency of the BJP as well where, betraying juvenile impatience, a section was getting disillusioned by the government. This section of the ruling party’s vote base was reluctant to take into account the fact that a military retaliation never happens right on the day after a terror attack or some other provocative action of aggression by the enemy. Even the most powerful US military did not attack a weak Saddam Hussain regime the day after Iraq annexed Kuwait before the First Gulf War or a weaker Taliban the day after terrorists linked to al Qaidah, Afghanistan’s Taliban and Pakistan executed 9/11. This section of the half-baked right wing of India did not seek comfort even from Modi’s record of permission given to the Army for the surgical strike following Uri. They have been silenced for now. Better still, they are rejoicing — unlike the fringe section of communist-socialist activists that are trying to find ways to prove Tuesday’s air strikes did not happen or suggesting there was a tacit understanding with the Khan administration that Indian would not attack their military installations, thus offering the enemy a face-saver after which Pakistan wouldn’t be under a political compulsion to retaliate.
The opposition leaders today, while congratulating the IAF pilots for the Balakot act, came across as a shade better than their denials post-surgical strikes. Yet, if their tweets are a bid to deprive the Modi government of the credit for allowing the defence forces to decide upon a befitting reply to the Pulwama massacre — the kind of spine the UPA government obviously lacked — they would do well with a bit more of grace, having capitulated in the face of the 26/11 attack. One is apprehensive of their loss of dignified conduct soon, though. Someone with a big foot in the mouth might claim any day Modi did it keeping in mind the Lok Sabha election that is just two months away. While the electoral benefit a government gets for its demonstration of patriotism cannot be denied, this reasoning would be akin to theorising that the prime minister had some election in mind even while allowing the September 2016 military operation in PoK, which would be ridiculous.
Finally, given the severe blow Pakistan has received in Balakot, perhaps losing at least 300 of terrorists affiliated to the Jaish-e-Mohammed led by Maulana Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law Yousuf Azhar, some response from the enemy is inevitable. It had made a half-hearted attempt even today but was thwarted by the intimidating IAF formation. It must be noted here that while India still does not have enough squadrons for a two-front war, China is in no mood to intervene and the existing military might of India is more than a match for Pakistan. The western neighbour has no excuse of terror camps in India, which it can claim to target without escalating the situation. That leaves it with the option of hitting back Indian forces or civilians, either of which is fraught with the risk of inviting a full-fledged war that the nearly impoverished Islamic state can ill-afford. More so because India has successfully brought to its side the support of a majority of nations that matter. India’s economic measures can only worsen for Pakistan hereon. Kneeling down of the terror-sponsoring country is inevitable, just a matter of time.