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The Message of Balakot: Don’t mess with us

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New Delhi, Dec 15: The message of the Balakot air strike was to tell the Pakistani establishment and terrorist organisations that there will be a cost to pay for terror attacks in India which was effectively conveyed, said former Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa.

He was speaking during a discussion on 'Understanding The Message of Balakot' on the second day of the Military Literature Festival organised here by the Punjab government and the Chandigarh administration.

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    "The message of Balakot, therefore, was to tell Pakistani establishments and terror organisations that there will be a cost to pay for terror attacks in India which was effectively conveyed," said Dhanoa.

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    However, he said, "on our side.. (there were) stupid mistakes for which remedial measures have been taken and people responsible will be punished."

    Dhanoa did not share any details about what the "stupid mistakes" were.

    He also said, "We could not impose significant costs on PAF (Pakistan Air Force) on 27 of February (when the Pakistan Air Force retaliated a day after the Balakot strike)."

    Dhanoa asserted that there was a paradigm shift in the way the Indian government responds to terrorist attacks involving mass casualties. He pointed out that there was no military response from the Indian state after the 1993 bomb blast in Mumbai and the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

    "The first response came after terror attack at Uri in 2016 and it was retaliated by the Army with an attack on destroying terror launch pads inside Pakistan Occupied Kashmir," said Dhanoa, who retired from service on September 30.

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    Pakistan got the message that the new government will respond militarily to a major terror attack on its soil, he further said.

    Dhanoa said that after the Pulwama attack in February in which 40 people were killed, the Pakistani establishment had feared that there would be retaliation. "There were only two questions -- when and where the retaliation will take place," he said.

    A decision was taken to strike a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist training camp in Pakistan's Balakot area as the terror organisation was behind the Pulwama attack.

    "The government and political will was very clear to tell the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Pakistani establishment that such attacks would come at a cost and no matter where you are, be it PoK or Pakistan, we will get you and that is the message of Balakot," Dhanoa said.

    Pointing towards the poor fiscal health of Pakistan, Dhanoa said that in February 2019, the neighbouring country was reeling under severe financial crisis.

    "Their foreign reserves were $50 billion compared to USD 400 billion in our case. Had they gone to war with us, they would have literally eaten the grass," he said.

    The former IAF chief also said that the biggest lesson one could learn from the limited period engagement was that technology matters.

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    "What about the responsibility of people who were to get this technology and kept negotiating for nearly 10 years to get the MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft)? What would have happened in the same engagement had Wing Commander Abhinandan (Varthaman) been flying Rafale aircraft instead of MiG 21- bison?" he asked.

    The Indian Air Force had struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist training camp in Pakistan's Balakot area on February 26 in response to the February 14 Pulwama terror attack in J&K in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

    The Pakistan Air Force retaliated the next day by unsuccessfully targeting various military installations in Jammu and Kashmir.

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