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Balakot strike excellent, India must keep up pressure on Pakistan: Surgical strikes hero

Lt Gen. D.S. Hooda (retd), who led the 2016 surgical strikes, said India needs a consistent policy that puts pressure on Pakistan after every terror attack.

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New Delhi: The air strike conducted by India in Pakistan’s Balakot will need to be accompanied by persistent pressure in other areas like diplomacy, economics and international isolation for it to have an impact on cross-border terrorism, according to Lt Gen. D.S. Hooda (retd), the former Northern Army Commander who led the surgical strikes in 2016.

Hooda, who was recently appointed by Congress president Rahul Gandhi to pick a task force and prepare a vision document on national security, applauded the Narendra Modi government’s decision to conduct the strike.

“It is an excellent action. Compliments to the government for having taken the decision and compliments to the Air Force for the fabulously planned and executed air strike. I think it’s a job very well done,” Hooda told ThePrint.

“It (impact on terrorism) depends on how this strike is also accompanied by persistent and continuous pressure on Pakistan in other areas like diplomacy, economics and international isolation. We need to have a continuous and consistent policy that puts pressure on Pakistan every time they do some terror attacks. I think that’s where the success will lie.”

Also read: This hill-top near Balakot is the possible location of the IAF’s strike on Jaish camp

Geo-strategic dynamic will change

In Tuesday’s predawn strike, the IAF destroyed the Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest camp in Balakot, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, less than two weeks after the terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack in Pulwama that killed 40 CRPF personnel.

The strike, first made public in a series of tweets by Pakistan military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor, was confirmed by India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale.

It marks the first time since the 1971 war that the IAF crossed the LoC. Even during the Kargil war, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had not allowed IAF fighter jets to cross the LoC.

Hooda said Tuesday’s strike will definitely change the geo-strategic dynamic between Pakistan and India.

“I think it will (change), because it just shows India’s resolve that it is willing to up the ante if Pakistan continues,” he said.

“The camp in Balakot is not located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, it’s located in Pakistan. Crossing Pakistani air space and hitting a terror camp which is fairly deep inside — it’s definitely an indication of greater resolve from India’s side that if you are going to carry on with your activities, we are also going to come and strike your terror camps that are located in Pakistan. I think the message it has conveyed is fairly strong,” he said.

Also read: Madrassas to military training — how Balakot emerged as largest breeding ground for JeM

Is India prepared for a counter-strike?

Asked about India’s preparedness for a counter-strike, Lt Gen. Hooda said: “It will be highly unprofessional to think we have done something and they are not going to do anything. So, obviously, all contingencies are considered. I think, the ministry will be prepared in case there is some strike from Pakistan, how then are we going to respond. I can see the level of preparation would be extremely high from India’s side.”

On whether his own task force’s vision document for national security will make note of the 2016 surgical strikes and the Balakot air strike, Hooda said: “See, we are looking at a macro, long-term security strategy for India, and obviously that is going to give suggestions on dealing with our neighbours, including Pakistan.

“Frankly, we are not looking at detailed actions and commenting on things like surgical strikes. I think we need to put into a larger context. This is going to be what our broader strategy needs to be when we are looking at Pakistan.”

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