12 Mirage 2000s hit targets in Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir at 3.30 am on the night between February 25 and 26th. The bombs hit targets which housed the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists like Yousuf Azhar, brother-in-law of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood. It was described as “non-military”, “pre-emptive” air strike. The targets were launchpads at Balakot, Chakoti and Muzaffarabad. India had received intelligence input that Jaish was planning another suicide bombing inside India. This attack was in retaliation of Pulwama and to stop any other terror attack.
One of the main targets hit was Balakot. It is around 80 km from the Line of Control near Abbotabad where Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was held.
As one can see that it is not just inside the LoC, it is indeed inside Pakistan!
Here are some of the facts.1
The attack was carried out by Mirage 2000s. These multirole combat fighter are manufactured by the same Dassault Aviation that makes Rafale. With a maximum speed of over Mach 2.2 – 2495 km per hour which is twice the speed of sound – and a maximum climbing speed of 60,000 feet per minute, this aircraft is known as Vajra in the Airforce for its ability of precision strike. It has nine hardpoints for weapons carriage and a combat range of 1850 km. (source)2
The Indian Air force used the Israeli SPICE bombs (Smart, Precise Impact and Cost-Effective). They are a guidance and maneuvering bombs manufactured by Israel’s company Rafael! So, another Rafael! They have a sophisticated guidance system—consisting of inertial navigation, satellite guidance and electro-optical sensors for pinpoint accuracy (source)
The first statement out of Pakistan by its DG ISPR said that it was hit in the Muzaffarabad sector. As Mosharraf Zaidi explains in his tweet, they hit the target inside Pakistan!
So unlike what Indian journalists like Sagarika Ghose below are trying to sow in the Indian media, the target is clear. It was the Balakot in Muzaffarabad area. And, this is as per script that journalists get from their handlers in ISI – to sow obfuscation and doubts in India.
But when you want to know the truth, just watch where the one who is hit is nursing his wounds. And DG ISPR despite his typical Punjabi chutzpah, betrayed the actual target.3
Sources have called the Jaish-e-Mohammad camp that was hit as a “sitting duck target”. It was the largest JeM camp and had 325 terrorists and 25 trainers. The Pakistanis were expecting a surgical strike and that is why in this camp – where the JeM terrorists had been specifically moved after the Pulwama attack thinking India would not come this deep – everyone at the camp was sleeping and Pakistani defense establishment had no clue! This camp has facilities for 500 to 700 people, alongwith a swimming pool and cooks and cleaners to boot! As an Indian official said – “They had no idea that Balakot was to be the target … when the pictures come in you will see only khandhar (ruins) of the once-flourishing camp”.
The entire operation was carried out with precision and also with some camouflage tactics. Although many planes took off from different air-bases, only a few broke away and headed to Balakot, and hit it as the whole bombing took 90 seconds with the laser guided bombs and turned back with the damage done.
Fighter and other aircraft took off from several air bases in Western and Central commands at about the same time, leaving Pakistani defence officials confused as to where they were heading, the sources said. A small group of aircraft broke away from the swarm and headed to Balakot where “the sleeping terrorists were sitting ducks for the Indian bombing,” said one source. (source)4
Yousaf Azhar, brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, headed the camp. He is also the guy who was responsible for the IC-814 hijacking case. Yusuf had contacted Abdul Latif nearly 20 years ago and started plotting the escape of Masood Azhar. After a failed jail-break, they plotted the airline hijacking.5
There has been a definitive shift in how India retaliates to terror provocation by Pakistan. It is no longer constrained by the LoC, which is what Atal Behari Vajpayee called the “Lakshman rekha”. Forget LoC, the Indian forces are now given the strong hand to go and hit the targets wherever they are – even inside Pakistan – as Balakot was! And nothing can explain the shift in the whole way of doing things better than how one Indian diplomat did.
“The Modi government made it clear from Uri 2016 that every terror strike will be met with a retaliation,” said a top diplomat. “The question in the past was should we or should we not. Now it is when where and how”.
The questions asked in the establishment have changed! That is a major shift!6
Most importantly, you know that Pakistan has bitten more than it can chew when even China has distanced itself from the whole thing. We had discussed in an earlier post that China was mad after the whole Saudi deal at Gwadar. That is what in all probability led to the release of the UN Security Council statement on Jaish. And, today, all China’s statement was terse and cold!
“We hope the two countries would serve the objective of maintaining peace and stability in the region,” the ministry said in a reply to a question.
That is as non-committal as it comes in the global diplomacy!
There is an upcoming Russia, India and China (RIC) meeting soon, where Indian Foreign Minister Sushama Swaraj will attend, so China does not want to jeopardize that meet.7
Lastly, and most importantly, the way the Modi government went about doing the whole operation created the cover that was perfect. No official event was canceled, no leaves were canceled for the Army personnel. In fact there were no troops amassed on the border. The way they went about the whole thing was secret and done to create a lull. No wonder the whole Pakistani media was thinking that what Modi said was a joke. Because everything was going as usual in India!! Under this cover, intense activity was going on to take revenge.
And, this Indian Air force strike may just be the beginning!