‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ After the devastating attack in Pulwama, no other quote seemed to be more apt in lieu of India’s position in the current situation. India harboured responsibility on its shoulders for it to not carry out a knee jerk reaction which could have been detrimental to the future of the nation, simultaneously it was also necessary that a befitting answer was given to the perpetrators of the attack. There was a palpable anger on the streets and the nation was in a somber mood. Our generation did not want to mourn yet another terrorist attack be it 26/11, Uri, Pathankot, the most recent Pulwama attacks or see soldiers- some our age or younger- unfairly losing their lives nor did it wish to take out yet another candle march lamenting the unfair loss of lives due to these heinous acts of terror.
In the wake of the most recent attack on the convoy in Pulwama, the question was what type of a response would have worked. There were a host of measures which lay in front of the government. The Indian Army had the capabilities to go ahead with another bout of surgical strikes, similar to the ones conducted in 2016 where terror camps were destroyed and terrorists were killed across Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The usage of missiles and aerial strikes by the Indian Air Force targeting terrorist launch pads was an alternative as well. On the other hand, the government could have opted for economic or strategic measures such as reworking the Indus water treaty owing to India’s much more dominant position with the World Bank as compared to several decades ago, when the Indus water treaty was signed. Lastly another alternative for India was to isolate Pakistan economically owing to India’s impressive economic growth along with support received from the international community in the aftermath of the attack.
After every attack on Indian soil, these measures were discussed time and time in detail. Often a SWOT was analysis made of each of them but in the midst of all this however what was lost was action at the end of it, unlike this time. The Prime Minister’s proactive approach has been successful. Unlike his predecessors, there was a change in approach and the army was given a free hand to decide the time and place of response to the terror attack.
In such an atmosphere, the Indian Armed Forces carried out air strikes on terror camps in Balakot. India’s decision to go ahead with these strikes is a fitting response in more than one way. After the recent reports from Pokhran where the Indian Air Force had showcased it’s all weather operational capability, a stone throw from the India Pakistan border, the might of the air force has been highlighted yet again. Several factors are indicative of the success of these strikes. After 1971, this is the first instance of the Indian Air Force entering Pakistan’s airspace. These strikes were not just limited to Pakistan occupied Kashmir but were carried out in Balakot as well, a town in the heartland of Pakistan. With the use of thousand kilograms of bombs, these strikes are estimated to have killed approximately 300 militants. Most importantly, this signals the end of India maintaining restraint which it did even after the 26/11 or Parliament attacks.
Subsequent to the action of the Indian Air Force, the ball is now in Pakistan’s court. The strikes carried out by India were only non military and preemptive in nature as there was credible intelligence that terror groups were planning yet another suicide terror attacks in various parts of India. If Pakistan chooses to retaliate, their attack options would either be civilian or armed forces, both in gross violation of international law, leaving Pakistan in a catch-22 situation.
After the Pulwama attack there was a stirring call asking for action to be undertaken to send a stern message to the perpetrators of this attack. The Indian Air Force’s actions have provided a resounding answer to the entire nation and have affirmed their belief that today’s India would not simply sit idle while terrorists harbored in Pakistan shamelessly attacked India with indemnity.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee had once said, you can change friends but not neighbors. In the wake of these airstrikes, the nation’s belief has been reaffirmed once again that if there is any government which can undertake action making our neighbors change their way, it is the Modi government.