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Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Balakot air strike: IAF only counts targets, not casualties

In his first remarks since the February 26 attack on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot in Pakistan, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said the Rafale jet should come into India's inventory by September.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: March 4, 2019 5:25:37 pm
Air Chief BS Dhanoa at a press conference. (file photo/Express Photos by Gurmeet Singh)

The Indian Air Force doesn’t take into account human casualties but only the number of targets hit, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said on Monday, referring to the Balakot air strike.

Addressing the press in Coimbatore, Dhanoa said: “IAF is not in a postilion to clarify the number of casualties. The government will clarify that. We don’t count human casualties, we count what targets we have hit or not.”

The Air Chief’s remarks come a day after BJP president Amit Shah claimed that over 250 terrorists were killed in the IAF air strike deep inside Pakistan.

“After the Uri attack, the army did a surgical strike. After the Pulwama attack, people said there could not be a surgical strike due to the high level of alertness. But on the 13th day, the Narendra Modi government carried out an air strike, and more than 250 terrorists were killed without suffering any losses,” Shah had said on Sunday.

In his first remarks since the February 26 attack on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot in Pakistan, Dhanoa said the Rafale jet should come into India’s inventory by September.

In response to a question regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that Rafale jets would have a made a difference, he said, “Honourable Prime Minister has made the statement. I will not comment on that.”

Referring to Pakistan using F-16 aircraft in its offensive against India last week, Dhanoa said, “I don’t know what is the end-user agreement between America and Pakistan. If the end-user agreement was that they will not use it for offensive purposes, then I think they have violated that end-user agreement.”

India, he said, has pieces of the AMRAAM missile which it displayed.  “Obviously, I think they have lost a F-16 aircraft in that combat. So, obviously, they have been using that aircraft against us,” he added.

Had the Indian Air Force dropped bombs in a jungle at Balakot there would have been no need for Pakistan to respond, he said.

“The target has been clearly amplified by the foreign secretary in his statement. And, of course, if we plan to hit the target, we hit the target. Otherwise, why would he (Pakistan) have responded,” he said.

Questioned about the use of the MiG 21 Bison, which was among the IAF aircraft used to repel the Pakistan fighter jets that violated Indian airspace, Dhanoa said: “The MiG-21 Bison is in our inventory, why not use it?…I will not comment on the ongoing operation because they are still ongoing. The Mig-21 Bison is a capable aircraft, it has been upgraded, it has better radar, air-to-air missiles and better weapons system… We fight with all the aircraft in the inventory. Remember the initiative is always with the adversary.”

When asked about the present situation on the border, he said: “It is an ongoing operation, I will not comment on it.”

On whether IAF wing commander Abhinandhan Varthaman would fly again, Dhanoa said: “Whether he flies again or not depends on his medical fitness. That’s why post-ejection, he has undergone medical check. Whatever treatment required, will be given. Once we get his medical fitness, he will get into fighter cockpit.”

Dhanoa was briefing the press after President Ram Nath Kovind was in Coimbatore to present the President’s Colours to Air Force Station, Hakimpet and 5 Base Repair Depot at the Air Force Station in Sulur.

The President said India is committed to peace but will use “all our might” to protect the nation if the need arises. He said the country’s valour was on display when, on February 26, the Indian Air Force (IAF) conducted pre-emptive air strikes on a terrorist camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot, Pakistan.

“India remains firmly committed to peace, but in case the need arises, we will use all our might to protect the nation,” the President said. “Our Armed Forces reflect our resolve. This valour was on display very recently, as the IAF carried out preemptive strikes on a terrorist camp.

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