Amid allegations by the Opposition that the BJP was politicising the recent IAF bombing on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the government was not trying to reap political benefit out of the operation ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. She said the operation was not a “military action” as there were no civilian casualties.
“There is no relationship between the airstrike and elections. It was based upon intelligence inputs on terrorist activities in Pakistan, to be unleashed against India. It was not military action,” Sitharaman said.
While BJP chief Amit Shah said “more than 250 terrorists” were killed in the airstrike, Sitharaman refused to give any exact casualty figure. “Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had not given any casualty figure in the airstrike, which is the government’s position,” Sitharaman said.
Gokhale had last Tuesday said the “non-military and pre-emptive strike” on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) training camp in Balakot had killed “very large number” of terrorists, trainers, and senior commanders.
Even Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa on Monday said it was for the government to provide details on the number of terrorists killed. “The Air Force is not in a position to clarify how many people were inside (the target). We don’t count human casualties. We count what targets have been hit, or not hit,” Dhanoa said.
Several senior Congress leaders, including Digvijay Singh, Kapil Sibal, and others and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have sought proof and details of the airstrike.