Forty Indian troops of CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) were killed in an attack on Jammu Kashmir National Highway in Pulwama district, Kashmir on 14th February 2019.
The perpetrator of this suicide mission was a local Kashmiri man, Adil Ahmad Dar. Pakistan based group JEM (Jaish-e-Mohammed) claimed responsibility for this attack.
The aforesaid incident resulted in a wave of anger amongst Indian masses. There were various reports of Kashmiri students and traders being physically assaulted in other provinces of India.
Indian government launched an air-strike in the early hours of 26th February, 2019. Twelve Mirage 2000 jets of the Indian Air Force crossed the Line of Control between India and Pakistan and dropped bombs, thereby claiming to have destroyed a large training and recruitment center of JEM in Balakot (Pakistan)
The next day on 27th February, Pakistani air-force jets intruded into Indian air-space. In the ensuing air-battle between Pakistani and Indian fighter jets, an Indian MIG-21 was shot down and the Pilot captured by the Pakistani authorities.
He was subsequently released by the Pakistani government after spending a couple of days in their custody.
Senior leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, the political party holding power in India) came up with figures ranging from 250-400 Pakistani terrorists, planning more Balakot like attacks in India being neutralized as a result of these air-strikes.
The chief of Indian Air Force (IAF) stated “IAF can’t count how many people died. Air Force is not in a position to clarify how many people were inside. We don’t count human casualties. We count what targets we have hit or not hit,” said Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa.
The Pakistani government claimed that no substantial damage was done by the Indian air-strikes at Balakot.
According to the author, neither the Indian nor the Pakistani version reveals the true story.
Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Lt. Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua held a secret meeting with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval on December 26th. This meeting took place in Bangkok.
In all probability, the planning for Pulwama attack was done in this meeting. India and Pakistan both used the situation arising out of Pulwama incident to their advantage.
Modi strongly believes that his government will get another five year term in the office, when the results of the ongoing elections in India will be declared on 23rd May.
The incumbent government in India mentions Balakot to show off its hard-line nationalist macho image by continuously referring to it, in their election speeches and campaigns.
Pakistan on the other hand has extensively cultivated and patronized terror groups like JEM. They are employed as strategic tools by the Pakistani establishment, when they do not wish to ‘dirty their own hands’
These groups are referred to as ‘non-state actors’ to absolve the Pakistani government of any responsibility.
A group of international journalists as well as the ambassadors and defence attaches of various countries were taken for a tour of the impact site at Balakot on 10th April.
This visit was organized by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) media wing of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
The air strike was carried out around 03:30 A.M., Indian Standard Time (IST) on 26th February and the above mentioned trip organized on 10th April.
The moot point to ponder is, why did it take so long for the Pakistani authorities to organize this visit?
If there were no casualties on the Pakistani soil, as per their claims, the international media should have been allowed immediate access to the site.
It clearly reveals that the Pakistani authorities ostensibly used the long time-frame between 26th February-9th April to clean and polish up the place.
It’s in the interest of the Pakistani Army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) not to let these terror groups become too powerful.
The Pakistani establishment was aware of the impending air-strikes by the Indian Air Force. They must have ensured that the top leadership of JEM was not present at the bombed site in Balakot.
Definitely there were foot-soldiers and new recruits of JEM in the complex. Pakistan used the period between the bombing and the international delegation visit to eliminate signs of damage as well as casualties.
Every coin has two sides similarly; an event is interpreted differently by different people. A person will believe the version depending on his/her perspective, ideas and opinions.
How long will India and Pakistan continue to indulge in this game of one-upmanship?
Both these South Asian Countries face huge challenges of poverty, corruption, illiteracy, religious fundamentalism, ever increasing population and unemployment.
The only solution to resolve tensions between India and Pakistan lies in both countries recognizing the current LOC (Line of Control) between them as the international border.
It’s not feasible for India to ever claim the so called POK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) similarly, Pakistan can never get so called IOK (Indian occupied Kashmir) merged into it or create an Independent nation of Kashmir.
Indian Prime Minister Narender Modi sent a message to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan on 22nd March.
Modi said it was time for the people of the sub-continent to work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive and prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan said on 10th April that there may be a better chance of Peace talks with India and ‘some kind of settlement in Kashmir’, if the BJP wins the currently on-going Lok Sabha elections in India.
Let bygones be bygones, governments of both countries should walk the talk by recognizing the presently existing ‘Line of Control’ as the border between India and Pakistan. Get these irrelevant terms like IOK and POK erased forever.
The normalization of relations between India and Pakistan would result in Indian as well as Pakistani governments focusing more efforts, towards the development and upliftment of their respective societies, rather than waste precious resources on unnecessary military escapades.