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Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa Monday said the Indian Air Force “can’t count how many people died”, referring to the Balakot airstrike that targeted terror launchpads.

Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had asked the Narendra Modi government to provide evidence of the Balakot IAF strike. At an event in Gujarat, BJP president Amit Shah said the IAF strike had killed more than 250 terrorists.

ThePrint asks: Is Opposition justified in seeking Balakot evidence or shouldn’t politicise national security?

By questioning govt, opposition is giving Pakistan chance to use these statements against India

Nalin Kohli
National Spokesperson, BJP

The opposition parties are in a way seeking to conduct a political and media inquisition of the valiant services being rendered by our armed forces. The agenda of the opposition is obvious – politicise an issue that doesn’t deserve to be politicised.

Let’s recall the Batla house case. Some leaders went to the extent of calling it a fake encounter, despite the fact that a senior officer — inspector Mohanchand Sharma – had lost his life in it.

After the surgical strike in response to the Uri attacks in September 2016, the opposition had similarly questioned their veracity and asked for evidence.

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Today, the world has recognised that the Indian Air Force undertook an operation to eliminate the training facility of a known terrorist group in Balakot.

Thereafter, in retaliation, Pakistani fighter jets intruded Indian territory, which was successfully repulsed and an F-16 downed by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

Through this questioning, the opposition is in effect giving a handle to agencies in Pakistan to use these statements against India’s interests. They will also be used to malign our security forces.

Does this serve national interest or our security in any way? The opposition parties would do well to reflect on this.

As for the proof about how many people were killed in the air strikes, it can be provided only by Pakistan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is duty-bound to inform the nation about what action has been taken to protect the nation, its security and making the perpetrators of terror pay a heavy price.

Modi, Shah and other BJP leaders are shamelessly using soldiers for votes 

Pawan Khera
National Spokesperson, Congress

Those using Pulwama and Balakot to further their politics have the cheek to accuse anyone asking them some discomforting questions of politicisation.

Questions on the Pulwama attack and on the conduct of the political leadership of the BJP after the terror act and around the subsequent air strikes by the IAF are aplenty.

That our jawans were put in harm’s way by the government’s rejection of their request to be airlifted is a fact; that there was intel failure that led to hundreds of kilograms of RDX reaching Pulwama is also a fact; that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, and leaders like Sakshi Maharaj have resorted to using jawans to seek votes is a shameless fact.

What is Modi’s desperation that he uses Balakot to try and quickly get rid of the Rafale taint? What is the desperation of Amit Shah to give a number to speculations of the casualties in Balakot to quickly help India forget Pulwama? Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa having to step in to contradict Shah should in itself shut each and every BJP motormouth up.

We first lose 40 jawans. Our MiG-21 Bison goes down. Our Wing Commander gets captured in Pakistan. We use up decades of hard-won political capital and goodwill to put pressure on Pakistan to release the IAF pilot and yet our government wants us to believe we have won. The emperor wants an unquestioning nation to celebrate. The nation seeks to know if the cold-blooded murder of our jawans has been avenged.

Let ‘national security’ not become the last resort of those who are scared of questions and have a lot of answering to do.

Also read: Pulwama-Balakot helps Modi in polls — issues of farmers, jobs, Rafale don’t exist anymore

Those asking for Balakot evidence are undermining Modi govt and our armed forces

Kanwal Sibal
Executive council member, VIF, and former foreign secretary

Those who ask for Balakot evidence are allowing their opposition to the Modi government to undermine national security. The government had given freedom to the armed forces to choose the time, place and methodology to respond to the Pulwama attack.

Based on the assessment of its operation at Balakot, the Air Force provided the material for the foreign secretary’s briefing and later the representatives of the three services briefed the media themselves. Seeking evidence of the Balakot operation questions the integrity and the honour of our military.

Narendra Modi is accused incessantly of event-management, the implication being that the Balakot strike was a stage-managed show in which the armed forces were complicit. It insinuates the Air Force failed in its strikes and gave false information to the government, or that they admitted their lack of success to the government but Modi has papered over that for electoral reasons.

Such questioning by the opposition affects the morale of the armed forces and the country at large, besides undermining the standing of the government and the country internationally. It plays into the hands of Pakistani propaganda. This is reprehensible.

We as a society are on the wrong track if Pakistan becomes an important issue in elections

Pranay Kotasthane
Head of Research, Takshashila Institution

The opposition parties are justified in seeking evidence to the extent that the government’s spokespersons insist with their boastful claim that 250-300 terrorists were killed in the Balakot air strikes by the Indian Air Force.

In the broader scheme of things, the strategic consequences of the air strikes remain the same irrespective of the casualty figure. It’s not as if the Jaish-e-Mohammed will stop terrorism just because the air strikes hit their facility and killed some of its operatives.

But the Pakistani military-jihadi complex, spearheaded by the Pakistani army, will definitely remember that India struck on its sovereign territory in response to a terror attack by an outfit operating from its soil. So, the strikes are a dent on the Pakistani army – the self-proclaimed ideological and territorial defenders of Pakistan.

This is the real strategic victory for India. Any physical damage to the JeM facility and its leadership is a bonus. Hence the government and the opposition both should desist from exploiting this successful operation for their own partisan propaganda. We as a society are on the wrong track if Pakistan and its terrorists become an important issue in the upcoming elections.

Also read: Reaction to India’s military action on Pakistan shows how important it is to the world now

If India is claiming victory, then the government should provide reliable evidence

Nayanima Basu
Senior associate editor of foreign affairs, ThePrint

Not just the opposition but every individual with a rational mind is justified in seeking evidence for the strikes that the Indian Air Force carried out in Balakot town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

This is a free country and our Constitution gives us full right to know what the government is doing, especially when it is claiming such a big feat not just in front of its adversaries but in front of the world.

What is the meaning of democracy then? Democracy is not exercised only once in five years, it has to be practiced every day. Yes, sensitive details can never and should not be discussed, but if we are claiming victory and urging the world to focus on India’s counter-terrorism efforts, then the government should provide reliable evidence.

BJP president Amit Shah claims more than 250 terrorists have been killed inside Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistani authorities and international media have claimed that Indian airstrikes achieved nothing. So, it is imperative that India clears the air.

By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint. 

(This is an updated version of the commentaries)

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5 Comments Share Your Views


  1. The citizens of this free democratic country have every right to ask questions, even in case of matters like airstrikes by airforce. That does not amount to insult to the armed forces. Rather it would be a pride for them to show their valour and sagacity with which they performed such difficult task in adverse conditions. The govt should not hide behind national security in these cases.

  2. With the general elections being just a month away, this issue is bound to get politicised, there is no escape from the political reality. The factual position is that our Air Force hit the target precisely. It achieved twin results. It called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff by breaching the LoC first time after 1971. Secondly, it has, to some moderate extent, provided an alternative remedy to curb the menace of terrorism. However, let there be no illusion that the threat of terrorism has been totally dealt with. Just that the Jaish has received an unexpected setback and it would take some time for them to regroup and attack again. Obviously, it is stupid to predict the number of casualties in the Balakot strike. In the final analysis, the number doesn’t matter. Those who are seeking this number are asking a wrong question, so are also those who are projecting this number for their political benefit. The issue to be considered is that the operation Balakot has resulted in raising the moral and reputation of the country, irrespective of number of casualties- this is an undeniable truth. Secondly, the operation had some inherent risks. Had the things gone wrong with India losing pilots and Mirage aircrafts during the air strike, the blame would have been on the political leadership- more particularly on PM Modi. He weighed the risk and has shown courage to give clearance. Credit can be denied and he will undoubtedly enjoy rich political dividends on account his courageous decision making,.Period.

  3. Why should anyone have to ASK for evidence? The question is, why was it not provided upfront right along with the news on TV?

    I’ll say this: I watched BBC many times in the morning after the night of Balakot attack, say around 11 AM. Their news ticker was showing one line that Pakistan had been saying since early morning, “Pakistan jets scramble…”. That line changed only around 1 pm when Indian foreign Secretary gave out a statement, and the ticker started saying “Indian jets…”. Why this delay of nearly 8 hours? I didn’t tune in “on the hour” so I don’t know if the newsreader “spoke” any more details about the strike. Normally BBC and CNN get to know these things pretty fast. CNN I think didn’t have any ticker running at all. I tuned in there too, but couldn’t see any on that channel.

    All this is strange, really. When America struck targets in Iraq or later Libya (I think France hit Libya), the TV shots clearly showed the hits. They were covered extensively on CNN and BBC. But this time these two hyperactive channels in such matters were almost dead, suggesting that they knew nothing on their own, and were therefore running one line ticker that was first fed to BBC by Pakistan, and by afternoon by India.

    This surely raises questions in the minds of many like me who are aware of the reliability of above mentioned two channels in such matters.

  4. The various speakers are going around in circles and are only politicizing an issue that should not be. They bring water to power in place. This raid is blessed bread for this one. The question the Print commentator does not ask is: why did the Air Force Chief of Staff speak up on this subject? In general, this authority often speaks and not necessarily wisely. This raises the question of whether this authority serves the defense of the country or the authority that appointed it? This is an important question. Last but not least, his speech can only help maintain the silo mode of operation of the various components of the Indian armed forces. This attitude can only deter the establishment of a single chief of staff for the armed forces. It is also a blessing for the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Defense.

  5. The aura of the armed forces will be undermined if they get drawn – for no fault of theirs – into political debates, which become more intense during election time. Ideally, military and intelligence operations should remain covert, as they have for decades. When these are publicised and made into a tool for political aggrandisement, one can hardly expect the opposition to roll over. Questions on the efficacy of the Balakot strike are being raised by neutral, impartial observers. Those need to be set at rest. 2. The action taken in September 2016 was less significant than Balakot. And yet, when questions arose, video footage was leaked selectively to favoured outlets. Much better to officially place in the public domain authentic information to the extent this can be done without compromising national security. 3. If top brass are feeling a little uncomfortable with how their forces are being drawn into political debates, they might wish to convey their concerns to the leadership.


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