27th February: A Significant Anniversary

Ever since Mr Modi ascended the throne in New Delhi, Pakistan-India relations have taken a turn for the worse. The diplomatic communication the two neighbours had already broken down a long time ago. The only activity that has gone on is the summoning of diplomatic representatives by the foreign office and be served with demarches for one violation or the other.

This obviously is attributable to unending Indian hostility, arrogance and hatred.   

The “butcher” of Gujarat was happy to be given the opportunity to expand his anti-Muslim pogrom to the entire country. As his first term was about to end and India was not ‘’shining’’ as he had promised, he had to do something to divert attention from his failures. What better way to do this, than by appearing to be strong with Pakistan and claiming to teach Pakistan a lesson. So when Pulwama happened, or was made to happen, there was no doubt that the grand political plan had been launched. The usual blame game was initiated and theanti-Pakistan rhetoric took the usual and expected spike.

Following this, the Indian armed forces were given the clearance to make necessary preparations for retribution against Pakistan. The Indian hybrid war against Pakistan has been ongoing for ever but that is not as evident and spectacular as air attacks on your adversary’s territory. The Indian Air Force was therefore given the task to plan an “anti-terror non-military strike” against a purported terrorist training camp in Pakistan. IAF’s planning brilliance was revealed by choosing an empty madrassa building in Balakot across international border. They wanted to attack a target but not provoke a Pakistani military response.

An elaborate fighter and support aircraft package was assembled to deceive PAF defenders/interceptors. The planning included brilliant tactical consideration provided by Mr Modi himself i.e. the attack must take place in cloudy weather so that Pakistani radars cannot detect the intruders. The planned operation was executed on the night between 25th &26th February, 2019. None of the bombs hit the intended target yet the Indian government claimed that 300 terrorists were killed in this strike.  The Indian media and public went crazy at the “outstanding success” of this strike and dared Pakistan to respond.

The PAF did respond at the time of its choosing and demonstrated its ability to strike ground targets precisely even in the face of aerial opposition. In the process it shot down two IAF fighters and captured a pilot who ejected in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir territory. The ensuing confusion caused Indians to shoot down one of their own helicopters. The IAF obviously had had a bad day at the office and could not explain their failures on two successive days.

When the IAF CAS was asked in a press conference, subsequently, to provide evidence of the claimed success at Balakot, he refused point-blank, saying it was not his job to provide casualty figures.As for the air operations, they brazenly claimed that Mr Abhinandan had shot down a PAF F-16 before being shot himself. They also had two regrets, for the way events transpired,that they didn’t possess the Rafale and Pakistan had used F-16s against them. The embarrassment was unexplainable. Internal analyses revealed to them that the IAF could not go back at PAF in a big way without suffering more losses so they pulled out their Brahmos missiles to send them on their one-way journeys. Pakistan warned that it would respond more than appropriately and the Indians backed off. Three days later they also, in desperation, sent a submarine to threaten Pakistan but that was detected too and allowed to retreat even though it could have been targeted and sunk.

The Indian adventure launched presumptuously as a cakewalk turned into a nightmare. The era of fake news came to Indian rescue. Lies suited the government, media and the public so they reconciled themselves to them. The grand plan was to appeal to the RSS base and marshal them behind BJP and Narendra Modi inthe May 2019 elections, which did happen. The political ends were achieved but the reputation of the IAF and Indian military superiority was left in tatters.

Pakistan Air Force acquitted itself well and buried the Indian hubris in sand. The government returned Abhinandan. The world was surprised at the outcome of the aerial exchanges. The Indians could not actualise their intended ‘’new normal’’ and Pakistan re-established deterrence by dissuading Indian military from further adventurism. Sadly, the “butcher” of Gujarat did not learn any lesson and he went on to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A of Indian constitution and inflicted the worst violations of human rights of eight million Kashmiris of Indian-occupied Kashmir. Even more tragic is the fact that the developed world stands silent in the face of this colossal human suffering perpetrated by a majoritarian Hindu state.

The 27th February anniversary, therefore, beckons us to continue the struggle. A battle was won but a bigger war goes on in Kashmir in the face of Indian brutalities and world’s apathy! Readiness and perseverance is the need of the hour.

~ The writer is President CASS and former Air Chief of Pakistan Air Force. This article is first published in The NATION newspaper. he can be reached at