HIDE & SEEK IN BALAKOT

Granted that a lot of confusion surrounds the IAF assault on Balakot on February 26 and there are also reasons to believe in the assertions from the Indian side that it razed the principal training centre of Jaish-e-Mohammed deep inside the Pakistani territory, much beyond the PoK. Balakot is not far from Islamabad, the political capital, and Rawalpindi, the military headquarters. To that extent, even granted for argument’s sake that no serious damage might have been caused in the IAF bombing, and only “pine trees were bombed” as was told to the UN, Pakistan has been made to take a huge hit.

Pakistan’s military brass, never tired of bombasts and holding out threats to India about its nuke strengths, hid its face for a day and then retaliated with less success. PAF could not cross the border much beyond the Line of Control, and was chased away. If its targets were Indian military bases, PAF miserably failed in its attempt to save face.

India, on the other hand, always took the position that it aimed only at targeting terrorists. In the retaliation, India lost one fighter jet, and it shot down a Pakistani F-16 too, thanks to IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman’s bravado. Overall, Pakistan was made to eat humble pie, but could does not seem to have learnt the bitter lesson. India’s cautious approach won it global praise; but stronger action from India’s part would have raised its esteem higher.

Now, weeks later, truth seems to be the main casualty of the Balakot hits. No one really is sure as to what happened. India itself is not coming up with strong evidence. Pakistan has always been in a state of denial. It denied Ajmal Kasab was its baby; it denied Pakistani involvement in the Pathankot and Uri terror strikes on military installations. It denied Jaish and its chief Masood Azhar were behind the several terror attacks on India including the attempt on Parliament building. Notably, it had also denied Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, until Americans dug in deep and pulled him out from Abbottabad, close to the military establishment.

Denials apart, what gives sizeable credence to the Indian claim of dropping bombs to devastating effect on a terror training camp is the hesitation on the part of the Pakistani establishment to allow foreign media to inspect the scene of the bombing. Clearly, Pakistan has things to hide in Balakot.

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