Hours after Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter jets carried out a “non-military, preemptive action” against a major terror camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad in Balakot, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal AY Tipnis, who commanded the IAF during the Kargil War, told The Indian Express, “From what I am gathering, this is a brilliant, well-planned action and unequivocal message that there is a limit to India’s tolerance. It is being reported that 12 jets targeted four places, if that is true then it is big and something that most had not imagined. This shows that India’s action was not knee jerk in nature and a clear message that we are acting and not merely reacting to what Pakistan has done.”
Asked about the possibility of escalation, Tipnis said, “There always is a possibility of escalation and I am sure a thorough planning has already been done preempting any such scenario. Rather, the time that India has taken after the Pulwama attack, must have gone into preparing the defences. We also must understand that many times, the escalation is not incremental but can go from say zero to a hundred in no time and we have to be prepared for that. I think this also conveys that though Pakistan uses terrorism as a tool against India, we are within our rights of International law to take such action.”
Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, who was Chief of Air Staff between May 2009 and July 2011, said, “This is a strong lesson to Pakistan and not some revenge as was being talked about. Also, the use of the Air Force to strike at the terror centres is a strong message from the Indian leadership. I have always been a proponent of the use of Air Force to deal with the menace of the terrorism.”
When asked about the possibility of escalation, Air Chief Marshal Naik said, “Both sides will be on alert and so will be the Air Defence systems. I am sure that we are prepared for any scenario.”
Ministry of External Affairs secretary Vijay Gokhale said a large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders were eliminated in an early morning operation. The camp was run by Maulana Yousuf Azhar, the brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar.
ANI quoted IAF sources as saying 1000-kg bombs were dropped on terror camps across the LoC, adding that 12 Mirage 2000 jets took part in the operation. Pakistan armed forces spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor claimed Indian aircraft “intruded from Muzaffarabad sector” and “dropped a payload” near Balakot “facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force”.
Leaders from different political parties have also reacted to the strike. Political parties appeared to have united once again after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack in lauding the IAF. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, party leader Shashi Tharoor, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, tweeted congratulating the armed forces for striking terror camps.
“I salute the pilots of the IAF,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted at around 9:30 am with tricolour symbols. In an hour, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee joined Gandhi and tweeted: “IAF also means India’s Amazing Fighters. Jai Hind.”
🇮🇳 I salute the pilots of the IAF. 🇮🇳
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 26, 2019
IAF also means India’s Amazing Fighters. Jai Hind
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) February 26, 2019
“I salute the bravery of Indian Air Force pilots who have made us proud by striking terror targets in Pakistan,” Kejriwal tweeted.
I salute the bravery of Indian Air Force pilots who have made us proud by striking terror targets in Pakistan
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 26, 2019
However, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav lauded both the political leadership as well as the forces for the operation.