India’s Balakot Strike: An Analysis

Author Name: Maham Gillani       26 Feb 2021     India

The suicide attack at a Pulwama check post by a Kashmiri youth, followed by the retaliatory Balakot strikes by the Indian Air Force, are perhaps the most intriguing events in the recent past that heightened tensions in Indo-Pak relations, and shaped the direction of Modi’s re-election campaign. For the RSS-inspired Modi, Kashmir is a scapegoat and battleground, as reckoned by Arundhati Roy when she said Kashmir had become a “real theatre of unspeakable violence and moral corrosion.” Some political analysts also suggest that “doctrine of the state” is being executed in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) to suppress the Kashmiri freedom struggle by using brute military force.

These events led to national hysteria in India causing hyper nationalist propaganda debates on official media channels and in social media spaces supported by many Bollywood celebrities and youth blinded by the BJP’s nationalist and anti-Pakistan rhetoric.

Indian and Pakistani analysts had already predicted the possibility of false flag operations by the BJP government as a cover-up for its reeling governance apparatus, and as a tool to gain votes. Thus, it is highly likely that the Pulwama attack was a brain child of RSS which created a conducive environment for mobilization of Hindu voters - a catalyst for political point scoring for the BJP.

In the wake of Pulwama in Indian Held Kashmir on 14 February 2019, the Indian Air Force (IAF) was ordered to attack an alleged “terrorist training camp” in Balakot, Pakistan. On 26th February, 2019, the IAF carried out strikes on an empty madrassah building and ended up missing it entirely, and only destroyed some trees. Contrary to this, the Indian government claimed that 300 terrorists had been killed, instead of one poor crow!

Moreover, the Indian media reported that IAF aircraft dropped 2,000-pound bombs over the alleged “terrorist training camp.” Based on post-airstrike satellite imagery, this claim, was found to be false. Further investigative reports and satellite imagery by international media agencies, like Reuters, proved that the Indian government’s claims lacked evidence.

In comparison to this false mayhem, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s counterstrike was strategically executed. The PAF shot down two IAF fighters with great precision, and even captured an Indian pilot who ejected over Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. In sheer panic, the IAF even shot down one of their own helicopters.

Despite the lies orchestrated by the Indian state and media to cover up their failure, there is no doubt that this was a historic moment of collective shame for the Indian Armed Forces and their entire nation. Ironically, the BJP gained the political mileage it had been craving at the cost of putting its military into a deep mess.

In the wake of Pulwama, a lot of Kashmiri students and Muslims in India faced humiliation and torture by angry Hindutva-inspired mobs systematically carrying out pogroms backed by the BJP government.

The Pulwama incident could have been managed more responsibly by the Indian state had it shown statesmanship and rational thinking. The public reaction, fueled by the fanatical Indian media and Bollywood celebrities, also lacked foresight. Indians should certainly ponder how the BJP gained political points at the cost of losing the country’s reputation as a “secular democratic state.”

The author is a researcher at the Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies. The article was first published in The Asian Telegraph.She can be reached at cass.thinkers@gmail.com.