India’s warplanes hit a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot on February 26, 2019 to avenge killing of 40 CRPF personnel in the Pulwama terror attack.
Pakistan retaliated the next day but the IAF foiled their plans. The attack by India and subsequent retaliation by Pakistan triggered fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Air Marshal (retd) Anil Khosla, who was the Vice Chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF) during the Balakot strikes, said capacity building is a continuous process in the armed forces.
“But incidents like Balakot fastened the process of capacity building,” he said.
He added that assets like Rafale fighter jets, the Chinook heavy lift choppers and Apache multi-role combat helicopters were introduced in the IAF’s fleet post the Balakot strikes.
“The integration of weapons systems with the aircraft was also fastened,” he said.
The newly inducted Rafale, Chinooks and Apache are being deployed in eastern Ladakh where troops from both India and China remained heavily deployed after a border standoff between the Indian and Chinese armies erupted on May 5 last year following a violent clash in the Pangong Lake area.
Subsequently, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a fierce hand-to-hand combat on June 15 in the Galwan Valley, an incident that marked the most serious military conflicts between the two sides in over four decades. Eight months after the confrontation, China admitted that its four soldiers were killed in the fight.
Lt. Gen. (retd) Satish Dua, who was the Corps Commander of the Srinagar based XV Corps when the Indian Army undertook surgical strikes post the Uri attack in 2016, said these two strikes show India’s capacity and resolve to carry out an action.
“Before Uri happened, we were only defensive in our approach because they would send in terrorists and they would create violence. They would carry out the BAT (Border Action Team consisting of Pakistani special forces and terrorists) action and we would only be defensive. The Uri attack was the last straw. We did an action of going deep inside and Balakot was much deeper inside…so we have given them a clear signal that no longer we will only take defensive action.
“That is the paradigm shift the country and the leadership has taken,” Dua said.
Lt. Gen. (retd) D S Hooda, who was the Army’s Northern Commander during the surgical strikes post the Uri attack in 2016, said the Balakot strike displayed India’s response to terrorism.
“It was a much stronger response. The ability to strike deep also gave greater to the armed forces in its military capability,” Hooda said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the success of the Balakot air strikes displayed India’s strong will to act against terrorism.
“On the anniversary of Balakot Air Strikes, I salute the exceptional courage and diligence of the Indian Air Force. The success of Balakot strikes has shown India’s strong will to act against terrorism. We are proud of our Armed Forces who keep India safe and secure,” Singh tweeted.
Home Minister Amit Shah said with the Balakot strike, the IAF made clear the “New India’s” policy against terrorism by giving response to the Pulwama terror attack.
“On this day in 2019, @IAF_MCC had made it clear the New India’s policy against terrorism by giving response to the Pulwama terror attack,” Shah tweeted.
“I remember the brave martyrs of Pulwama and salute the valour of the Air Force. Under the leadership of @narendramodi ji, security of the country and our soldiers is paramount,” he said.