New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday defined India’s new strategy against cross-border terrorism—“return the damage done by the terrorist with interest" —as he hailed Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian Air Force Wing Commander who returned to India after two days in Pakistani custody.
Varthaman, 38, crossed into India via the Attari-Wagah border and was whisked away by Indian Air Force personnel soon after. He was captured by Pakistani authorities after his MiG-21 Bison was shot down during a dogfight on Wednesday.
The India-Pakistan aerial combat followed IAF's air strikes in Pakistan's Balakot that destroyed a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp. The Indian action was triggered by the 14 February Pulwama terror attack that left at least 40 CRPF personnel dead. That suicide attack was claimed by the JeM.
“This is a new India, that will return the damage done by the terrorist with interest. The events of the past few days have demonstrated the strength of our armed forces. It has also brought our nation closer," Modi said at a public meeting in Kanyakumari.
“The country has been facing the menace of terrorism for years" but there “is a big difference now. India will no longer be helpless in the face of terror," Modi said.
Analysts have described the Balakot air strike as drawing new red lines in India’s fight against terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
“India’s red line once was it will not cross the Line of Control," said Lalit Mansingh, former foreign secretary, referring to India restraining itself while evicting armed Pakistani intruders from Kargil in 1999.
After the 2016 Uri attack, India struck terrorist training camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, drawing a new red line with that action, Mansingh said. “The idea that India will restrain itself and won’t cross the LoC was busted," Mansingh said.
With the Balakot air strike, “India has demonstrated that strategic restraint is not binding on us and India is free to take any action it deems fit to secure itself," Mansingh said.
India would not tolerate terrorism emanating from Pakistan, said a person familiar with the developments on condition of anonymity. If Pakistan and the international community would not deal with terrorism emanating from Pakistan-controlled territory against India, India would act against it, the person said, indicating a reset of rules in dealing with cross-border terrorism.
“The world we live in is a self-help world. If you are seen to take action, then the world will support you and that is exactly what happened in this case," said Sreeram Chaulia, a professor of international relations at the Sonipat based O.P. Jindal Global University.
“India has set new rules for engagement with Pakistan," he said.
India would work with countries around the world to bring pressure on Pakistan to wind up terrorist training camps, said a second person familiar with the development on condition of anonymity.