Day after IAF strike at Balakot, sleepless nighthttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-pakistan-balakot-airstrike-iaf-officer-abhinandan-mea-5603903/

Day after IAF strike at Balakot, sleepless night

IAF pilot in Pakistan custody, India seeks prompt return, slams PAF for targeting military sites.

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A red cross sign being painted on the rooftop of a hospital in Srinagar, Wednesday. (Express)

The day that began with Pakistan Air Force shooting down a MiG fighter jet and an Indian Air Force pilot being captured by Pakistan’s Army, ended with Prime Minister Narendra Modi being briefed by chiefs of the three armed forces. As Pakistan released videos of the pilot in its custody, the chain of events complicated the escalation ladder between the two nuclear-armed countries.

New Delhi adopted a four-pronged approach on Wednesday. First, India accused Pakistan Air Force of targeting “Indian military installations” and summoned Pakistan’s Acting High Commissioner on Wednesday afternoon to lodge a “strong protest” at what it called its “unprovoked act of aggression” including “violation of the Indian airspace.”

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Second, India called Tuesday’s Balakot strike a non-military “anti-terror” pre-emptive strike and labelled it as a “counter-terror strike”.

Third, Delhi told the Pakistan envoy that “India reserves the right to take firm and decisive action to protect its national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity against any act of aggression or cross-border terrorism.”

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This spells out India’s policy to attack terrorist targets across the Line of Control and even the International Border at a place and time of their choice. And, fourth, India handed over a “dossier” to Pakistan with specific details of Jaish-e-Mohammad’s complicity in the Pulwama terror attack and the presence of its terror camps in Pakistan.

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“It was conveyed that India expects Pakistan to take immediate and verifiable action against terrorism emanating from territories under its control,” he said. This was a clear answer to Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s repeated statements that India should give Pakistan actionable intelligence.

New Delhi on Wednesday accused Pakistan Air Force of targeting “Indian military installations”, and said that though the attack was foiled successfully, a MiG fighter jet was shot down in the aerial confrontation and a pilot is “missing in action”. While Pakistan initially said that two IAF pilots were in its custody, later in the day, it said it had arrested “only one.”

The pilot, through videos released by Pakistan’s army, was identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. “There is only one pilot under Pakistan Army’s custody. Wing Comd Abhi Nandan is being treated as per norms of military ethics,” Pakistan Army’s spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said.

Earlier, Ghafoor, in a press conference, claimed that one pilot was injured and had been moved to a hospital while another was unhurt. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that India “strongly objected to Pakistan’s vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention”.

“It was made clear that Pakistan would be well advised to ensure that no harm comes to the Indian defence personnel in its custody. India also expects his immediate and safe return,” the MEA said.

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India’s strong demarche was in the context of Pakistan’s retaliatory response to New Delhi’s “non-military pre-emptive action”. Accompanied by Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor, MEA’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that it was against Tuesday’s “Counter Terrorism Action,” that Pakistan had responded by using its Air Force to “target military installations on the Indian side.”

Due to our high state of readiness and alertness, Pakistan’s attempts were foiled successfully, he said.