Politics over Air Strikes

Published : Mar 11, 2019 12:13 pm | By: M D Sridharan

The forces have never questioned the integrity of the politicians. But the politicians cannot believe the people who are ready to sacrifice their lives. Instead they are demanding proof undermining the valour of our military capabilities.

At a time when majority of the people of India were overwhelmed by the historic Air strike carried out by the Indian Air Force on a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot in Pakistan in the early hours of February, 26,2019, Opposition parties are indeed politicising the whole exercise done in the interest of the National security.

On Feb. 14, an Indian paramilitary convoy was attacked in Pulwama in Kashmir, by Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad resulting in the death of 40 Indian officers. In retaliation, the Indian Air Force carried out a surgical strike on militant training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Can the historic Air Strike be subjected to poking fun for political gains? Can the historic air strike be made fun of for votes? Do the forces need to prove their valour to political parties? While the Opposition parties readily take the words of the enemy for granted, do they have the right to sully the reputation of the Indian forces? Can't the netas believe the people who are always ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the nation?

The irony is that the Indian forces have never questioned the integrity of the netas, but have dutifully carried out the task of protecting the country. They demolished the terror camps of JeM in Balakot and in the process also brought justice to the Pulwama attack.

Was it done only to perpetuate Modi’s chances of winning the coming general elections? The Opposition believed the foreign media but not our forces. It is shameful for what the     opposition parties are doing? They are playing in to the hands of Pakistan’s planned insinuation against India.

Those mocking the forces with vituperative comments hurt not only the forces but the entire country. The valiant action by the forces must not be undermined. When men are prepared to die for the nation, the nation must trust them. Questioning the valour of our forces can't be accepted. Absolutely not.

Though  the purpose of the strike was not to cause human casualty but to send out the message to the terror organisations and  Pakistan that India is capable of hitting deep inside enemy lines when need arises.

In a democracy the opposition has the right to fight with the ruling dispensation. But not with the forces. During the 26/11 Mumbai attack, though it was the Congress that was in power, the Congress netas blamed RSS for the attack rather condemning Pakistan. But, this time terming the genuine surgical strike as a farcical strike is paramount to accusing the forces of bringing a great disrepute to the nation.

Finally the IAF Chief, Air Marshall, Dhanova, has to clear the air.

Opposition Trivialises  the Air Strike

Immediately after the air strike, the foreign secretary and Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vijay Gokhale   held a press briefing about the air strike.  Vijay Gokhale said, “In an intelligence lead operation in the early hours of February 26th,  India struck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commander and groups of Jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen actions were eliminated. This facility at Balakot was headed by Maulana Yusuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghauri, brother-in-law of JeM Chief Masood Azhar”. But he did not specify the exact number of number of causalities and also there were no official statement either by the government or by the IAF.

While many of our reputed media houses attributed their information to anonymous “government sources and announced that over 300 terrorists were killed in what appears to have been the massive strike on the terrors groups so far by the IAF.  But the International media reported based on Pakistan’s statement rejecting the India’s claims that it had inflicted heavy casualties on a militant group. Notably, international media house Reuters had claimed the establishment was intact even after IAF strike.  The agency assessed the satellite images and after comparing it with pictures of April 2018, concluded, "There are no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrasa or other signs of an aerial attack." Pakistan government also released images claiming the area was “mostly deserted wooded area” and that there were no casualties or damage on the ground, which was later proved to be digitally modified.

But soon after the air strike, the BJP’s president Amit Shah hailed Modi’s bold move to carry out the air strike and also claimed that over 300 terrorists were killed when. The Opposition simply latched on to it and made it a big issue.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee questioned the Modi government and demanded evidence as well as the details of the pre-emptive strike on JeM training camps by the Indian Air Force. Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Siddhu, who is always ready to bat for Imran Khan, said the government is "not able to discern between trees and structures, despite there being 48 satellites”. 

The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party joined the attack. AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal also questioned Shah's claim and said Shah is saying that the Army is lying, "The Army cannot lie, the BJP is lying. The whole country is with the Army but the BJP is against the Army," Kejriwal tweeted.

Citing international media reports of "no proof of militants being killed at Balakot", Congress leader Kapil Sibal, said, “Where did they get this information from or is it with a particular thought in mind that the Lok Sabha elections are around the corner,

National spokesperson of Congress Manish Tewari also echoed a similar view and accused the BJP for milking Air Strikes for Politics????

Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) chairman Farooq Abdullah said, “We have shot one of their planes? Where is the proof of what Amit Shah says, ‘300 people died’?

Worst, Congress leader B K Hariprasad went a step high and  remarked that the  Pulwama attack was a fixed match between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.

Kapil Sibal also believed the international media report as the  “gospel of truth” and questioned, "How is it that the international media is saying there is no proof of militants being killed at Balakot? Is it that the international media pro-Pakistan? Is the Prime Minister now going to call the international media pro-Pakistan and anti-India?"

It must be noted that the very international media, has publically called Pakistan the hotbed of terrorism. They conveniently ignored that. But, pointed out when New York Times reported that there was no damage due to air strikes by the IAF in Balakot. Does it not expose double standard attitude of the Opposition?

It is unfortunate that some of the Opposition leaders spoke the language of Pakistan. It is indeed highly saddening to hear leaders raise questions on our security forces.

BJP’s Counter Attack

BJP president Amit Shah hit out at opposition parties, alleging that they "raised doubts" on the courage of the armed forces and their demand for proof of the IAF air strike brought a "smile on Pakistan's face".

"We can understand that you do not have the courage of Modi ji, but if you cannot support and praise what Modi ji and the armed forces did, then at least keep quiet”, said Shah. He claimed PM Modi made the country understand what "zero tolerance" for terror meant by ordering the surgical strike and air strike.

 Mamata di asks for proof. Rahul baba says it is being politicised. Akhilesh asks for a probe. Be ashamed that your statements have brought a smile on Pakistan's face. Pakistan smiled only after the press conferences of the opposition leaders where they raised questions on the courage of the armed forces," he pointed out.

"Now the world accepts that India cannot be taken lightly. The entire world accepts that one cannot tamper with India's borders. The entire world now accepts that it is not easy to touch Indian soldiers. They will get the response for a bullet with cannon," he asserted.

Union Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh slammed Congress and opposition. He said, “What kind of mindset of people are there, next time if India will conduct Air strike, the opposition who are raising question we will chain them and take them to the spot. The people know what action is being taken and then also seeking for proof just for malformed politics.” 

Union Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad hit back at Congress leader Digvijaya Singh who compared the Pulwama terror attack to an accident and it is very shameful of him.” He also added, “BJP would like to know is all this tweeting (by Congress leaders on Pulwama terror attack) a part of conspiracy? Because whatever is being said here is being shown in Pakistan.”

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy also hit back at Congress. He asked, “Why anyone needs to give exact figures of dead terrorists? Did America give details of assassination of Osama bin Laden?” Swamy also said, “Why Congress party lies on everything?

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley took a dig at people who denounced IAF strikes in Pakistan’s Balakot by saying that “compulsive contrarians” found a “new Balakot” across the Line of Control (LoC) without realising that the only Bala Kote near the LoC is inside India’s territory, and asked, “Why would our forces attack our own territory?” “When our Air Force reached Balakot in KPK before we could get any information some people started saying Balakot is along LoC. Some people whom I call compulsive contrarians found a new Balakot and didn't check that that Bala Kote is in our Poonch. Why'd our forces attack our territory?”

Proof of the Air Strike

Can the historic air strike be politicised? Are the netas testing the true patriots? Finally, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa had to explain the media and clear the apprehensions.  He said,” if we bombed only the jungle and only the trees were felled, then why the opposition is making it a big issue? We don’t count human casualties. We count what targets have been hit, or not hit”. On the target itself, the IAF chief said, “The target has been clearly amplified by the Foreign Secretary in his statement. And, of course, if we plan to hit the target, we hit the target. Otherwise, why would Pakistan have responded? If we had dropped bombs in the jungle, there would have been no need for Pakistan to respond,” he said.

The bombs dropped by IAF jets pierced the roofs and caused significant damage on the ground though did not bring down the entire structure. Also, while  pre-strike satellite images showed two large tented accommodation, after the IAF air strike  the  tents in the area were nowhere to be seen. This indicates that the tents were either destroyed in the strikes or were removed after the operation.  The evidence submitted by the IAF also  dismissed Reuters' findings. Also, the Reuters team  has been stopped from entering the site of a madrasa and a group of surrounding buildings that were targeted by the IAF by the Pakistan government.

Subsequently, IAF shared the secret assessment report with the government including radar and satellite imagery, which showed that the S-2000 laser-guided munition hit the intended targets. S-2000 smart bombs penetrate the targets and cause a blast inside. The Radar and Satellite images clear showed that IAF precisely bombed the "intended targets" at the JeM terrorist training camp in Pakistan's Balakot and "caused significant internal damage". The IAF used certain kinds of weapons to destroy the enemy camps.

Media Blitzkrieg

After the air strike, the BJP’s president Amit Shah hailed Modi’s bold move to carry out the air strike and also claimed that over 300 terrorists were killed. What he mentioned was just an estimated figure, but the Opposition simply latched on to it and made it a big issue.

Even after the deadly Pulwama attack, there were confusions on the exact figure on the   number of kilograms used by JeM terrorists as there were reports ranging from 25 to 350 kilograms of RDX being used in the attack.

Of course, the responsibility lies with the  Indian government, more so at a time when the relationship between the two countries threatened to escalate in to a war.  Unfortunately, the misleading information was shared as a matter of public record without clearly checking for the source. Many media houses indeed amplified the situation and Opposition took no time to describe it as the government propaganda,

Today, in the digital era, the access to social media, by the general public as well as politicians with vested interests, provide ample opportunity to go ahead with their own imaginations. Worst, many Indian  TV channels were engaged in broadcasting continuous debates  over the military operations, with anchors assessing the capabilities of military weaponries and the sophisticated technology behind it as though they are fully competent to talk on these issues of national security.  These media blitzkrieg and the onslaught by the Opposition resulted in providing a perfect fodder for the enemies as even some Pakistan media houses reported about what is being said in Indian media about the air strike. May be it is due to the “Colonial hangover” that is once again exhibited by the Opposition to rave about the foreign media reports than the explicit explanations by IAF.

At a time when the entire opposition was gunning for Modi and BJP as part of their election strategies, the vitriolic reports on the ‘”Surgical strike” by the international media provided the perfect ammunition for the Opposition to continue their tirade and simply claimed it as the BJP’s propaganda and demanded evidence of the claims.

It was highly mystifying when questions like why MiG-21 Bison was used? Who takes such decision at a time when the adversary strikes? Is it the IAF or the journalists or the so called experts? Of course, people forgot the fact that war strategies cannot be discussed over TV debates. Remember what happened during the ghastly 26/11 Mumbai. Some of the Indian TV channels continuously aired gun battle between the Maharashtra ATS and the terrorists as a result of which several key decisions regarding the counter operations were delayed as the enemies watched every move and thwarted the attack by the commandos. Finally, Home Ministry had to intervene and issue warnings to the media houses on the coverage of the entire operations.

Politics and Terror

It is an undeniable fact that while the country has seen many terror attacks in the past, such attacks have been politicised for electoral gains. Especially, when the ghastly terror attack takes place at a time when the country is gearing up the elections, it becomes the scoring point in the election campaigns in the country.

Rightly, the Pulwama attack by the JeM on February 14, 2019 and the subsequent pre-emptive non-military strike by the IAF on February 26 in Balakot in Pakistan, both provide perfect source for election campaigns. While the Opposition always jump the gun on terror casualties as the glaring example of the government’s failure, the ruling government fight it out to prove them wrong.

In the case of Balakot air strike, it does clearly portray the government’s intent to destroy terror camps and mark Modi’s resolve to wipe terrorism even in a foreign soil. Besides, it has also sent out a strong message to the world that India would not tolerate violence beyond a point and is prepared to fight it out tooth and nail to safe guard its people.

Rather than finding out ways and means to effectively combat and deal with terrorism, the opposition parties have always questioned the government’s action, even it is a retaliatory one in the interest of the nation.

In case of the Pulwama attack, the BJP government’s response have been straightforward than the Congress. First, the government gave the Army a free hand. Then it revoked the MFN status to Pakistan and also raised the customs duties to 200 per cent. The government even threatened to stop water to Pakistan and finally did carry out military attack targeting the terror camps.

With these acts surely, the BJP as well as the prime minister gained people’s trust. But, on the other side, it indeed compelled the entire opposition to stay united in their attempts to question the government

At the same time looking at the way the Opposition demanded evidence for the valour shown by the IAF is unfortunate for a nation to witness such the trivialisation of the armed forces,

When the people of the country shared their sense of grief after Pulwama and exhibit their pride after the IAF air strike, surely they also know the opposition demands are indeed oriented towards gaining political mileage.

While the ruling BJP sense a strategic advantage, the entire opposition is engaged in raising critical questions on the terror attack and political use of the air strike. However, the Election Commission has issued a directive to political parties and candidates, asking them to not use photographs of any defence personnel in their advertisements for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, But, since, the poll dates have been announced, the rhetoric on the air strike will continue to reverberate across the country till the elections are over. 

                   

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