Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
India and Pakistan has fought three wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971. Both countries have been involved in escalatory armed conflicts during Kargil Operations in 1999, Operation Parakram in 2001-02 and after the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008. There is another escalatory conflict brewing between both countries.
There has been a quantum jump in cross border terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. The number of terrorist incidents in J&K has jumped 177 percent in the past five years. A total of 1315 people were killed in the state between 2014 and 2018 due to terrorism including 138 civilians, 339 security personnel and 838 terrorists. In last 5 years, J&K saw 93% rise in death of security personnel in terror attacks.
Despite increase in terror acts, India traditionally prefers a laid back stance trying to solve matters diplomatically and by deploying more security personnel to protect own areas and assets. India has always avoided intensification of armed conflict fearing escalation into a full fledged war between two nuclear armed neighbours. However, Pakistan has never feared escalation and kept supporting cross border terrorism.
The trigger for retaliatory action was the dastardly attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama on 14 Feb 2019 which killed 40 CRPF personnel. India struck back with vengeance on 26 Feb using Indian Air Force fighter (IAF) aircraft to hit Terrorist Camps inside Pakistan. This was the first time the Air Force was used to strike at targets inside Pakistan hitting terrorist camps at Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Chakothi areas with Precision Guided Bombs.
The next day, Pakistan attempted to counter attack using about 24 F-16 aircraft. The Pakistani aircraft were intercepted and chased back by IAF Fighter aircraft. In the ensuing dog fight, one Pakistani F-16 aircraft was shot down and IAF lost one Mig-21 Bison aircraft. The pilot of the Bison aircraft Wing Commander Abhinandan ejected (parachuted) from the aircraft and landed in POK. He was rescued by the Pakistan Army after being mobbed and attacked by a frenzied mob. Succumbing to international pressure and pressure from India, Wing Commander Abhinandan was repatriated to India through the Wagah border on 01 Mar 2019.
What is not known to most people is that the initial reports emanating from Pakistan was that 2 Indian pilots were captured. What is now emerging is that the so called ‘Other Pilot’ was Wing Commander Shahzaz-ud-Din, the Pakistani F-16 Pilot who was shot down by Abhinandan. The tragic part was that after parachuting and landing in Pakistan, Wing Commander Shahzaz-ud-Din was lynched by the frenzied Pakistani mob thinking he was an Indian Pilot! A tragic case of mistaken identity due to Fog of War!!
India has been continuously bled by cross border terrorism. As a sovereign nation, we cannot keep bleeding continuously without hitting back. We must hit back in our own terms by our own choosing. These attacks on terrorist camps deep inside Pakistan are the assertion of a New & Powerful India! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)