New Delhi: India on Thursday signalled its intent to play out the endgame on eliminating cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, even as peace proposals poured in from its western neighbour.
A person familiar with the developments, who did not want to be identified, said that India was prepared to go it alone if Pakistan or the international community was unwilling to commit to eliminating cross-border terrorism.
“Terrorist attacks from Pakistan will not go unanswered," this person said, indicating growing weariness in India at Pakistan’s policy of sheltering and supporting anti-India terrorist groups and the seeming indifference of the international community to New Delhi’s complaints against Islamabad.
The resolve found an echo at a joint briefing by the three services on Thursday evening.
“Until Pakistan keeps supporting it (terrorism), all their terror camps will be targeted by us," said Major General Surender Mahal.
India’s determination to pursue the endgame reinforces the perception that the rules of engagement with Pakistan have been reset. The first indication came when India responded with surgical strikes to avenge the attack by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists on the military garrison at Uri, Kashmir, in 2016. The second came when India carried out an air strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) facility located in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan on Tuesday.
The person cited above drew a clear distinction between India’s action at Balakot—a counterterrorist operation—and Pakistan’s air raid against Indian military installations in Kashmir, which was an act of aggression.
Pakistan pressed into service more than 20 of its F-16 fighter aircraft for its raid on India. A MiG-21 Bison, one of eight Indian aircraft scrambled to chase off the F-16s, was shot down in a dogfight that also saw the downing of one of the F-16s in Pakistani territory. The Pakistani jets launched laser-guided bombs that missed their targets only because they were not close enough, the person said.
Given this, the onus was on Pakistan to de-escalate, the same person added.
Tuesday’s strike was a reprisal to the 14 February suicide attack that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama, Kashmir. The suicide bomber belonged to Pakistan-based JeM.
The person cited earlier said that India had in the past presented Pakistan with evidence of terrorists operating from its soil following the 2016 attack on a forward Air Force station in Pathankot and the 2008 Mumbai attack. In neither case did Pakistan take any action to punish any of the groups, nor did it prevent the operations of terrorist groups from its soil. Pakistan has sought to dismiss a video recording of the Pulwama bomber in which he identified himself as belonging to JeM, saying it was not evidence that the group was involved in the attack. All this has led India to conclude that it was futile to share information with Pakistan after the Pulwama attack.
Thereafter, India moved quickly to brief the international community on its stance, which, in turn, accepted and appreciated New Delhi’s contention, the same person said.
On calls from the international community to defuse tensions, the person said India had acted against a terrorist training camp, not a military installation in Pakistan. Neither were there any civilian casualties. In contrast, Pakistan had targeted Indian military installations. India’s operation was a counterterrorist one, while Pakistan’s could only be described as an act of aggression to which India retains the right to respond.
Pakistan had also unleashed a disinformation campaign with diplomats late on Wednesday through a clutch of false claims: India was going to launch missile strikes against unidentified targets; it was sending Indian naval ships to attack the Karachi port; and it was massing troops on its border. India assured the foreign embassies, which had approached it for clarifications, that it had no such plans.
Such disinformation further eroded the credibility of the Pakistan government, this person said.
These instances have only bolstered the Indian argument that Pakistan was deliberately trying to deflect attention from the fact that India’s 26 February action was a counterterrorism operation—a serious expression of New Delhi’s resolve to deal with the problem of terrorism emanating from a neighbour if either Pakistan or the international community failed to deal with the problem.
That the rules of engagement with Pakistan have changed post 26 February became clear, with India using air strikes to target terrorist training camps in Pakistan, said C.U.Bhaskar, director of the New Delhi- based Society For Policy Studies.
“We drew a new red line on 26 February and today we have reiterated that," he said.