INDO-PAK STAND OFF POST PULWAMA FIDAYEEN STRIKE
On 14 Feb 2019, the Nation was shaken out of its Valentine Day exuberance when news channels broke the news of the killing of over 40 CRPF personnel in an Improvised Explosive Device(IED) blast carried out by some militants in Kashmir. As the news of the ghastly tragedy trickled in slowly, it became clear that a long convoy of vehicles, carrying CRPF personnel from Jammu to their respective places of duty in various parts of Kashmir Valley, had been targeted by a suicide (Fidayeen) Jihadi, who had crashed his explosive fitted car with one of the buses in the convoy, resulting in the bus being blown to smithereens along with its occupants. The strike was carried out near Letpora on the National Highway 44, in Pulwama district of Kashmir Valley. Immediately thereafter, a video appeared in the social media in which the fidayeen, Adil Dar, of the same district, was seen warning the security forces of such a strike. He claimed he was from Jaish e Mohammad.
As the nation came to the grips with this colossal loss of life, there was anger all around. People marched out into the streets of many towns, villages, mufassil habitats and metropolises, demanding action against Pakistan-based Jaish e Mohammad, its cadres in J&K and its sponsors/ handlers sitting across the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) in Pakistan. As the mortal remains of the martyred soldiers reached their respective villages for their last rites, there was outpouring of grief and anger as also of the demand to take revenge against the perpetrators of this act of brazen attack on unsuspecting security personnel who were sitting ducks in their bus.
Government of India expressed its grief and sent condolences to the bereaved members of the families whose kith and kin had been martyred. As the clam our for revenge grew louder, Government at the centre said that action against Pakistan will be taken but its, timing, target and methodology will be decided by the armed forces.
In the meanwhile, the security forces carried out relentless operations against those responsible for carrying out this fidayeen attack in Letpora. In the continuing operations against militants, it became clear that the two master minds of this attack, Kamran and Abdul Rashid Ghazi, alongwith a local militant were holed up in the Pinglan village, 5 km away from the place where the CRPF bus had been blown away. The former was the operational head of Jaish e Mohammad in Kashmir and the latter was Jaish’s IED expert, with extensive experience of having operated with Taliban in Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhnunkhwa. As the operations progressed, news came in that one of our own officers, Major Vibhuti Shankar Daundiyal of 50 Rashtriya Rifles, along with a senior NCO, had been killed in the encounter with the Jihadi militants. It later transpired that the martyr officers’ wife is a Kashmiri Pandit girl by the name of Nitika, whose parents live in Faridabad. It may be mentioned that during the conduct of last rites of the martyr, Nitika conducted herself with enormous poise and dignity. She alongwith her husband became a role model for the nation.
It did not take much time, thereafter, to eliminate the two Pakistani jihadis as also their local accomplice. Though this brought the curtain down on the local angle of the attack, the larger question of dealing with Pakistan still remained. This became clear on 26 Feb, 2019, when early morning news informed the public that our Mirage 2000 fighters had targeted the Jaish e Mohammad training facility at Balakote, deep inside Pakistan. The news electrified the Nation as it indicated that the self-imposed restraint imposed by India on itself had finally been broken. The implications of this strike over the last few days, as we go to the press, have been enormous. Pakistan retaliated by sending a wave of F-16, a fourth-generation fighter aircraft to bombard our military installations and ammunition dumps along the LoC in Poonch-Rajauri-Naushera sectors. However, the Pakistani aircraft did little damage as they were challenged by a Combat Air Patrol based on MIG 21 and Sukhois. The aerial dog fight that took place in Naushera sector of Lam valley accounted for the loss of one aircraft each of Pakistan and India; Pakistan lost one F-16 and India a MIG 21 Bison. The pilot of MIG 21 Bison, Wing Commander Abhinandan who bailed out after his aircraft was hit, became a hero in India after some videos surfaced on the social media which showed him conducting himself in captivity with great dignity and courage. He said and did what few would have done and said in such circumstances, particularly, knowing Pakistan’s track record with our prisoners in such circumstances.
It appears that the international community has got involved in de-escalating the tensions between India and Pakistan, what with both countries being nuclear-armed nations. However, India’s air strike deep inside Pakistan sends a clear signal to Pakistan that it is not going to be business as usual any more. India has raised the bar, for now.
Col. Tej K Tikoo