India says air strike not an act of war


India called the air strike early this morning (February 26) on a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp located deep on Pakistani soil a “non-military pre-emptive action”.

.In the first official briefing by a top Indian bureaucrat – Foreign Secretary VK Gokhale – it was made clear that India carried out the air strike to pre-empt further terrorist fidayeen-style attacks on India.

This is the first time Indian Air Force planes crossed the Line of Control (LoC) into Pakistani-controlled air space since the 1971 war. The IAF did not cross the LoC during the 1999 Kargil conflict.

Mr Gokhale said the air strike hit “the biggest training camp in Balakot”, which he said was being run by Maulana Yusuf Azhar, the brother-in-law of the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief, Maulana Masood Azhar.

Mr Gokhale said that, based on an intelligence-led operation, “in the early hours of Tuesday, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated.”

The air strike was carried out to defend India and should not be looked at as an act of war, Mr Gokhale said. “The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties. The facility is located in thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence.”

Jaish-e-Mohammed, he said, is a terror group which has been active in Pakistan for the last two decades. It is led by Maulana Masood Azhar, who has his headquarters in Bahawalpur, in Pakistan’s Punjab province. “This organisation proscribed by UN, has been responsible for a series of terror attacks – the 2001 Parliament attack, the January 2016 Pathankot attack.”

Twelve Mirage 2000 jets attacked the terrorist camp at Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province with 1,000 kg laser-guided bombs in retaliation for the February 14 terrorist attack at Pulwama in Kashmir which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel.