Centre for aerospace power studies

By Air Commodore (R) Jamal Hussain

The Centre for Aerospace Power Studies was established at PAF Base Faisal in June 2001 at the direction of the Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force. Its primary function is to propagate the attributes of aerospace power for the better awareness of the general public. Publication and distribution of original articles relating to aerospace power, especially in South Asia is one of the methods being employed by CAPS to achieve its aim. Comments on the publications or inquiry on any aspect of air power is welcome and should be forwarded to:

The Balakot Raid and its Aftermath

Let me clarify at the very outset, I am not privy to the exact strike package the PAF had launched and the tactics employed. These are classified information. My painting of the aerial combat is from open sources and is based on my perception. These do not reflect the official version of the PAF.

Prelude to the Balakot Raid

To better comprehend the logic behind the Indian Air Force pre-dawn Balakot strike on February 27 2019, one has to examine the rationale and domestic impact of the earlier ‘surgical strike’ Modi’s government had allegedly conducted in 2016, following the Uri massacre. The Uri bloodbath had left over 40 Indian soldiers dead and despite clear pieces of evidence proving that it was carried out by elements within the Indian Held Kashmir, Modi squarely blamed Pakistan and threatened serious military reprisals.

In the prevalent nuclear environment and with the two adversaries nearly equally matched in a short, sharp conventional military showdown, the options for the Indian defence set up to conduct a retaliatory strike inside Azad Kashmir or elsewhere in Pakistan was rather limited. But some action had to be undertaken to carry out Modi’s orders and appease the Indian public who were by then baying for the Pakistani blood. On September 29 2016, the Indians triumphantly announced the conduct of a very successful ‘surgical strike’ led by their brave commandos where the raiding party infiltrated deep across the LOC and killed the insurgents there who were from their viewpoint, responsible for the Uri raid. For Pakistan, the announcement came as a complete surprise as on the day mentioned, at best there was a brief LOC skirmish initiated from the Indian side which Pakistan had effectively countered.

Two Pakistani soldiers had embraced martyrdom and about half dozen or more Indian combatants were reportedly killed in the process. There were no other civilian or military casualties, was Pakistan’s firm stance and it allowed the media to visit the regions where the Indian military had allegedly carried out their deadly raid. The incident, from their viewpoint, was dismissed out of hand and any retaliatory action was not considered necessary. On the Indian side, their military projected the strike as a major success while providing at best sketchy details of the raid.

When asked by their reporters to display photographs of the slain militants and the destroyed enemy camps, the spokesperson replied that the release of the pictures had been deferred keeping confidentiality in mind and these are still under preparation. In the event, no concrete and clear pictorial evidence were provided but the Indian media gave it the necessary spin to project to their public the Modi government had avenged the Uri massacre by punishing Pakistan. The so-called surgical strike while it did little damage to Pakistan or its military, it boosted Modi’s image within India as a strong leader who had stood up to the Pakistani interference in the Kashmir Valley and had avenged the Uri attack. That Pakistan did not retaliate militarily convinced the Indian defence strategists and planners that limited military actions, real or perceived could be initiated against Pakistan without risking any escalatory response by them, thus averting any nuclear crisis. In the bargain, much political mileage could be extracted by such a process.

The Pulwama attack on 14 February 2019, on the Jammu Srinagar Highway that resulted in the death of 40 Indian security personnel was a major crisis and the government of India had to respond. That the initial reports clearly indicated the involvement of a local Kashmiri youth and absolutely no credible and verifiable evidence of any Pakistani connection was put forward, Modi and his cohorts immediately blamed Pakistan and threatened major retribution.

No proof of Pakistan’s involvement was put forward. To the contrary, with the passage of time, news from within India are emanating that point to a diabolical scheme by the BJP led government where the Pulwama attack was actually masterminded by them so that Pakistan could be blamed and the anti-Pakistan sentiments further whipped up.

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