Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday criticised the Opposition for demanding proof of the Indian Air Force’s strike in Pakistan on February 26. Speaking at a rally in Rajasthan’s Beawar, Singh said the Opposition was questioning the IAF instead of congratulating it, and added that warriors do not count the people who are killed in war.
“After the attack in Pulwama, our government conducted counter-terror operations,” Singh said. “Our IAF jawans succeeded in destroying a terror camp in Pakistan’s territory. It’s not a small thing. For the first time, Pakistan must have realised that its business of terror cannot go on.” He added that the strikes gave out the message: “Pakistan will have to pay a heavy cost.”
It is understandable that Pakistan is angry by this operation, but some people in India also got seem to have got offended, he said.
“They are asking us for evidence and ask how many terrorists our IAF jawans killed,” he said. “The jawans who should be congratulated are being questioned. Our pilots had gone there with fighter jets, not to shower flowers or for a leisure trip... Warriors don’t count people killed in war.” The Balakot mission was a targeted one based on credible intelligence, Singh added.
The BJP leader also claimed that the Congress does not have any policy on tackling terror. In another veiled attack on the Opposition, he said: “Bravery is everyone being united on the matter of terror.”
Opposition leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, had asked the Centre whether the air strikes were related to the General Elections, which are expected to be held in April and May. They had asked the government to share details about the strike.
Several media reports, quoting unidentified officials, had pegged the number of casualties at over 300. Union Minister of State SS Ahluwalia refuted those media reports and claimed that the strikes were only meant as a warning. Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah, while addressing a rally in Ahmedabad, claimed more than 250 terrorists were killed in the Indian Air Force’s air strike.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday refused to provide the number of Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists killed in the strike. Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Monday said that the Indian Air Force is not in a position to count the number of casualties in the cross-border strikes. He said the government would provide such a number.
The air strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26 were carried out in response to a terrorist attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14, which killed 40 soldiers.
A day after the cross-border strike, India and Pakistan engaged in aerial skirmishes. On February 27, the Pakistani military claimed it had shot down two IAF jets – one had crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir. India has maintained that Pakistan shot down one MiG-21 aircraft of the IAF while the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet during the dogfight. Pakistan had also managed to capture IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was released in a goodwill gesture and returned home on March 1.