‘Escalation doesn’t always lead to war’: Army chief on Balakot strikes

Army chief General MM Naravane has said that India’s strike at terror launchpad across the border in Balakot showed that if one is skilful, escalation does not always lead to war. General Naravane was speaking at a seminar on land warfare.

He also said that rise of non-state actors like terrorists demands that victory in war is formulated in a nuanced manner.

The Indian Air Force Mirage-2000s struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) camp in Balakot on February 26, 2019, in response to the Pulwama suicide bombing attack in Kashmir in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men were killed 12 days earlier.

Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria had recently said that the IAF struck its targets in Pakistan’s Balakot with precision and the decision to use air power in a sub-conventional scenario was a paradigm shift.

He said the air force could have struck Balakot with twice the number of warplanes and launched four times the weapons but it didn’t do so to ensure there was no collateral damage and India could take the moral high ground.

The day after the Balakot air strikes, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter aircraft breached Indian air space over Jammu and Kashmir, prompting the IAF to scramble its own warplanes to repulse the raiders. In that operation, Wing Commander who was flying a MiG-21 Bison shot down a Pakistani F-16 aircraft before his own place was hit and forced him to bail out.

The IAF pilot who was captured by Pakistan troops was released on March 2. Wing Commander Abhinandan, who was conferred the Vir Chakra, resumed flying in August last year.