Millennium Post

Striking Balakote

India woke up to the news of "non-military pre-emptive" strike at Balakote (PoK) conducted by the India Air Force (IAF) in the early hours of Tuesday. Identified as the biggest Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) camp, 12 IAF Mirage-2000 dropped laser-guided bombs in a first air strike conducted in Pakistan in peacetime. With intelligence input citing JeM's probable plot of another terrorist attack on India, IAF acted swiftly to deliver a devastating blow. Both the number of casualties and Pakistan's acknowledgement of the strike remain ambiguous. While India has announced the pre-emptive strike, sending the people across the country into a frenzy, Pakistan only claimed a mere breach of LoC through airspace by India. The political spectrum along with people across India rather celebrated the strike which has been popularly referred to as Surgical Strike 2.0 following a similar retaliation to Uri in 2016. The IAF response, which comes 12 days after the dastardly attack in Pulwama that left 44 of our CRPF personnel dead, garnered praises from the people as much as it did from the eminent leaders across the political spectrum. Retaliation was expected but more than that it was a populist move. India, in these twelve days between Pulawama and Balakote, had gone on a diplomatic offensive requesting the UN and the international community to blacklist JeM chief as a UN-designated terrorist besides modest attempts to isolate Pakistan through rather peaceful means. While tensions boiled up across the border, India's choice for a dialogue seemed more likeable than an all-out military retaliation – though the foreign secretary of India labelled it non-military for some reason. It is to note how Pakistan, though denying accusations of breeding JeM on its soil and demanding actionable intelligence from India, was apprehensive of such a response which is why PM Imran Khan had presented a reinforced urge for dialogue. Pakistan, at this juncture, faces a dilemma. It cannot acknowledge India's attack and present the number of casualties since it already took a defensive stance when questioned over breeding terror outfits on its soil. While India rampantly exhibits the successful strike and ensuing casualties, Pakistan sits muffled, plotting a response in the wake of their territory being breached by its neighbour. Pakistan's diplomatic stance would be an appeal to the UN regarding India's breach of LoC at most. Meanwhile, since Pakistan will not acknowledge Balakote strike and consequent damage, India might as well put up any narrative they wish of the strike – including one which satisfies the average Indian ego to the peak. It is indeed an elated feeling for the people who had grossly condemned Pulwama and desired a befitting reply to the notorious neighbour but an unabashed celebration of another's grief can never be the answer to diplomacy. Modi assured the nation that it was in "safe hands" as his regime can be accredited with the glorious achievement of responding to insurgency carried out by Pakistan based terror outfits, that too twice. Balakote strike changes two important things in the country's collective conscience: it firmly iterates India's determination to not bow down as pronounced by Modi himself – assuring the neighbour and anyone that India, while sticking to its no-first aggression policy, will not spare the ones threatening its national security; and, it brings the nation to the crossroads of an important decision, especially in the wake of upcoming general elections. Balakote reassures the people of India that with Modi at the helm, India is secured and unprecedently strong. Consequently, it tinkers the feeling in average Indians that it was because of Modi that India was capable of such retaliation (which might be exaggerated). Our military is more than capable of such responses given its advancement. If it came to taking the call, Balakote is less of a diplomatic decision and more of a political one. Diplomatically, India's offensive stance was in the right direction, if not a satisfactory one for the majority of citizens, purely because an eye for an eye is not the way such tensions are resolved in matters of national importance. Inter-nation conflicts cannot resort to war and our peacetime obligations must always restrict us anyway. Therefore, Balakote air strike, then, is reduced to a populist decision in the wake of the Pulwama suffering which enraged the entire nation. It also stirs emotions of average Indians which is likely to support the strike for the sweet feeling of revenge, that too against Pakistan is one dearly shared by millions. While Pakistan is yet to appropriately react to Balakote strike conducted by IAF, India is elated at the thought of treating JeM a lesson it deserved for the Pulwama attack. A dialogue from here becomes either absolutely mandatory or intentionally neglectable – either way, Balakote served the point it had to!

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