Pakistan’s directors of anti-India terror may never have imagined that killing 40 personnel of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) by ramming a car with 350 kg of explosives into a bus, part of a large security convoy, at Pulwama (Jammu and Kashmir), on 14 February 2019, would spiral into an all-India public outburst of anger against Pakistan and a debilitating air attack on its terrorist bases.
It was not merely a heinous and horrible terrorist attack, but yet another act of war. Claimed by Pakistan-supported terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), this was the biggest attack on security personnel in J&K in decades. In 2001, three terrorists of JeM attacked the J&K state assembly in Srinagar using a Tata Sumo loaded with explosives, killing 38 people.
The tally of Pakistani/Pakistan-supported Kashmiri terrorists killed by Indian Army and security forces in Kashmir Valley in 2018—almost 250—was quite high. And a large number of those killed being JeM, including many of its commanders, was why JeM resorted to the use of an improvised explosive device (IED) which, with or without a suicide bomber is a far safer method of terrorist attack for the perpetrators.
Over the next few days, the extensive media coverage of the mortal remains of these brave hearts being escorted to their respective home destinations, showed how general public was joining the various processions and funerals, with slogans hailing the martyrs followed by “Pakistan murdabad” (death to Pakistan).Television networks interviews of various next-of-kin of the martyrs and citizens at large, all reflected the desire for retribution against the perpetrators/Pakistan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh too stated that this attack will be responded to. The Indian government took some significant steps like denial of sharing of the Indus River waters. India’s diplomatic offensive was also put into top gear. While many nations condemned the attack, efforts were renewed to move the United Nations Security Council on declaring Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. India revoked Pakistan’s most favoured nation (MFN) status. The customs duty on all Pakistani goods imported to India were raised to 200%.The government of India also urged the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering (FATF) to put Pakistan in the blacklist.
Protests, bandhsand candle light marches were held across India. The Indian community in the United Kingdom held protests outside the Pakistan High Commission in London. A delegation of Indian doctors cancelled their visit to Pakistan for the 13th Association of Anaesthesiologists Congress, organised by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), in Lahore on 7 March. Indian broadcaster DSport said it would no longer broadcast Pakistan Super League cricket matches. All Indian Cine Workers Association and Indian Film and Television Directors’ Association announced a ban on Pakistani actors and artists in the Indian film industry, and stated that strong action would be taken on any organisation violating it.
While an important and far too long overdue step of revoking security and some other facilities to Kashmiri separatists have been taken and some top honchos and many lower level functionaries have been arrested, till all separatists and their entire network are not put behind bars in states outside/other than J&K, terrorism in/related to Kashmir will not end.
Twelve days after the Pulwama attack, on 26 February, the Indian Air Force (IAF) launched a pre-dawn, precision bombing strike on terrorist bases in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as Muzaffarabad and Chakoti in Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (POJ&K) resulting in destruction of the three. It is a befitting tribute to not only the 40 martyred CRPF personnel but also those of Indian Army and security forces killed in various terrorist attacks in J&K. BJP reportedly asked party leaders to maintain restraint in their reactions and project the move not as revenge for the Pulwama terror attack but as a pre-emptive strike at terror camps at a time when JeM was preparing for a series of suicide attacks on Indian soil.
On 27 February 2019 morning, India’s air defence system was on full alert. Noticing a build up of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) aircraft on their side of the Line of Control in time, additional aircraft were scrambled and effectively engaged PAF aircraft attempting to attack Indian Army locations. IAF’s Mirage-2000, Sukhoi-30 and MiG-21 Bison aircraft were involved in the engagement. PAF aircraft were forced to withdraw in a hurry, which was also evident from the large distances ofthe weapons dropped from their intended targets. PAF’s F-16s supplied by the US for use against terrorists in Pakistan, were used by PAF for multiple launches of the AMRAAM missile. Prompt action by IAF’s Su-30s in response to PAF’s AMRAAM launch, defeated the missile, parts of which fell in the area East of Rajouri in J&K, injuring a civilian on the ground. A detailed report released by IAF and all the Su-30 aircraft engaged in combat landing safely back, nailed Pakistan’s lie of PAF shooting down aSu-30. This false claim was made by Pakistan to try to cover up for the loss of its own aircraft downed by the courageous Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, flying a MIG 21 Bison.
Then followed Abhinandan’s ordeal. His aircraft was hit, he bailed out, fell into Pak territory, got roughed up by the locals and was eventually seized by Pak army. A foreign newspaper stated: “A series of videos were released, showing him being beaten by a mob near his crash site and then interrogated by Pakistani officers while blindfolded and wearing a bloodied uniform. He gave his name, rank and religion, but when prompted for more, calmly replied: “I’m sorry, sir, that’s all I’m supposed to tell you.” The footage was widely circulated on WhatsApp and social media… His repatriation, for which a huge crowd gathered to greet him on the Indian side of the Indo-Pak border check posts at Attari, was delayed many hours without explanation by Pakistani authorities. A most likely reason for the delay was the large cheering crowd. Before being released after 9 p.m., he was made to stand short of the border check-post gate on the Pak side for quite a while with the Indian Air Attache, Group Captain Joy Thomas Kurien and Dr Fariha Bugati, a Pakistan Foreign Service official. Dressed in ‘civvies’, he stood straight and then walked erect, belying his condition. Following a meeting with his family, he was taken for a procedural medical check-up to Army Hospital, Delhi Cantonment, where he still is admitted for treatment of compression of the spine and injury to his ribs. The ‘Abhinandan moustache’ has become a hit with youth.
The fallouts of the sad loss of forty bravehearts of CRPF range, for India, from the good, the bad to the ugly. Under the good category are reactions of India’s public, the current government’s actions mentioned and the responses of many countries. US condemned the attack, assured that it would work with India in counterterrorism efforts and urged Pakistan to stop sheltering terrorists, to cooperate with the investigation and punish those responsible and has also prevailed upon China to blacklist Masood Azhar. Bangladesh, Bhutan, France, Hungary, Israel, Maldives, Nepal, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates condemned the attack, as did the United Nations Secretary- General. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, met with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and referring to both the 2019 Pulwama attack and the 2019 Khash–Zahedan suicide bombing, he stated that Iran and India would work together to prevent future attacks. Pakistan’s efforts to fool the world by conducting foreign media to a site well away from the building accurately targeted by IAF failed miserably, after getting exposed by satellite photos and advertisement photos by the makers of the Israeli-developed SPICE-2000 (Smart, Precise Impact, Cost Effective) bombs used by IAF on the JeM centre’s building in Balakot.
The bad fallouts are Pakistan stepping up ceasefire violations and terrorist attacks in Kashmir. While it can only be hoped that Pakistan does not raise the ante so high that war breaks out, India’s armed forces are taking no chances. Another great danger is Pakistan’s military leaders’ collective delusion syndrome, which was a major factor causing past wars.
The ugly fallout is ironically all in India. The gang of apologists/leftists/’peaceniks’/human rights activists/ pseudo-intellectuals/’tukde-tukde wallahs (let India break up into pieces), spearheaded by India’s historic, sycophantic Congress, still smarting from its debilitating defeat in 2014, has beaten all records of disbelieving/belittling/ridiculing the armed forces’ anti-terror actions, government’s decisions/deals, scoring self-goals, singing the enemy’s tune, stooping to unprecedented low levels of politics etc. Their getting exposed has not stopped or changed them.
A very recent announcement of three strikes and that too coming from Mr. Rajnath Singh, the Home Minister, indeed came as a surprise. Will there be more? Let us wait and see.