Indian Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria on Wednesday said the Balakot airstrike redefined the use of air power and marked a tectonic shift in government’s policy on national security, The Indian Express reported. Bhadauria made the comment in an interview with the newspaper on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Balakot airstrike.
Indian Air Force jets had struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist camp in Balakot in Khyber Paktunkhwa province of Pakistan on February 26, in retaliation for the killing of 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Pulwama on February 14. Pakistan had denied involvement in the attack but vowed to respond to any Indian military operation against it.
“The Balakot airstrike redefined the use of air power towards meeting the national objective and has changed the paradigm of sub-conventional action and response in the subcontinent,” Bhadauria told the newspaper.
He added that while there has been a “battle of narratives” over the event, and the subsequent air operations, the airstrike is one of the most important military operations undertaken by India.“The fact remains that the Balakot airstrikes were the most significant air action by the IAF in over four decades, when our fighters penetrated deep into Pakistan airspace, executed a precise attack on the terror camp and returned home unchallenged.”
At the time of the airstrike, Pakistan said there were no casualties, while New Delhi called the attack a pre-emptive strike that hit a terrorist training camp and killed “a very large number” of militants. Pakistan had countered India’s claim that it destroyed a Jaish-e-Mohammad madrassa, alleging that only a few trees had been felled in the Indian Air Force strike, and took representatives of some international media houses and foreign diplomats to the site in Balakot.
Former Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa, too, described the attack as a paradigm shift in Indian military operations, the Hindustan Times reported. “The other side never believed that we could carry out an [air] strike inside Pakistan to take out a terror training camp that we successfully carried out,” he said on Wednesday. “After Balakot air strike, there was no major terrorist attack throughout the Indian elections because they were scared that we will respond again in the same manner or even more devastatingly.”
Calling the operation a “precisely coordinated” attack, Bhadauria said the Balakot air strike demonstrated the Indian Air Force’s level of operational preparedness and capability. “The men and women concerned performed their tasks admirably under challenging conditions, which is a testimony to their planning and training,” he added. “This complex plan was conceived and executed in full secrecy and the mission went unchallenged even when Pakistan Air Force was on full alert.”
When asked about some of the big lessons learnt from the military confrontation, Bhadauria said: “We have instituted measures covering the entire spectrum of induction of new capability, operational training and tactics, which will further enhance the Indian Air Force’s operational capability to undertake any such mission at short notice.”
The day after the Balakot air strikes, Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft breached Indian air space over Jammu and Kashmir, prompting the Indian Air Force to scramble its own warplanes. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was flying a MiG 21 Bison, was captured by Pakistan troops but was released on March 2 as a “goodwill gesture”.