The Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) response to India’s attack on the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) training facility in Balakot was designed for domestic consumption and not with the intent to hit Indian targets, said the Indian Air Force chief on Friday, adding that the strike deep inside Pakistani territory marked a paradigm shift.
Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said, “The retort from the PAF was designed primarily to demonstrate action taken towards their domestic audience and it was fundamentally tailored to seek de-escalation.”
No target was achieved and they were in a hurry to disengage, he added, while speaking at a seminar organized by the Centre for Air Power Studies on the first anniversary of the Balakot air strike.
The death of 40 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in a suicide attack led to India’s decision to hit the JeM training facility in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. JeM had claimed the responsibility for the strike. It was in the early hours of February 26, 2019 that Indian Air Force Mirage fighters launched a pre-emptive precision strike based on intelligence inputs that JeM operatives were planning to carry out another suicide attack within India.
The use of the Air Force to strike a terrorist facility located inside Pakistani territory was done for the first time. India, before this, had carried out a surgical strike in PoK in 2016 using land forces near the contested Line of Control.
This decision to cross the LoC and carry out precision strikes changed many paradigms, said the IAF chief. The use of airpower was till then taboo in a sub-conventional scenario, he said, adding that this was not considered even during the Kargil conflict of 1999.
The strike was a clear demonstration that there exists a space below the conventional conflict boundary wherein the Air Force can be utilized for targeting and yet have escalation control, he said.
“I think this is fundamental to any action in the future as well,” said Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria. At the government level and diplomatic level, the message was delivered and de-escalation was achieved, he added.
The IAF chief pointed out that it was important to have an air power edge. Pointing towards the focused indigenisation of weapons and platforms, he said, “We will be very happy if in the next skirmish the weapons and missiles that we use are indigenous.”