Instead of the Ministry of Defence or the Indian Air Force addressing the press, it was Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale who read out a small statement in front of the media contingent in New Delhi on behalf of the Government of India on the "preemptive strike... in the biggest training camp of JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed) in Balakot" as the terror group was "attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country and fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose".
The address to the press by the Ministry of External Affairs was unlike the 29 September 2016 media interaction which was addressed by the then Director General Military Operations Lt Gen Ranbir Singh detailing out the action undertaken by Indian Special Forces across various locations in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) to destroy terror launch pads. At that time, he was also joined by the then Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup. However, the MEA official limited his role only to introduce Singh and later on to add towards the end that no questions would be taken. Singh now heads the Northern Command of the Indian Army in Udhampur.
Gokhale's statement that "this non-military pre-emptive action was targeted specifically at the JeM camp" based on "credible intelligence" makes it amply clear that India has no intention to escalate military tensions, but will take all necessary steps to defend itself.
"The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism. Hence, this non-military preemptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp. The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties. The facility is located in a thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence. As the strike has taken place only a short while ago, we are awaiting further details," Gokhale said.
The use of words by Gokhale on Tuesday and by Singh in 2016 also differentiates the nature of the two strikes. The action undertaken by the Indian Army across the Line of Control on the intervening night of 28 and 29 September 2016 served a military purpose, unlike Tuesday's action by the IAF.
"Now based on very specific and credible information which we received on Wednesday, that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along the LoC with an aim to carry out infiltration and terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and various other metros in our country, the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes last night at these launch pads. The operations were basically focused to ensure that these terrorists do not succeed in their design of infiltration and carry out destruction and endangering the lives of the citizens of our country," Singh had said on 29 September 2016.
It has to be noted that the IAF action on Tuesday was on "the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot" to uproot the terror infrastructure of the JeM.
Unlike the surgical strike of 2016, Pakistan has not been briefed by India on the IAF action.
In September 2016, Singh had said, "I have just spoken to the Pakistani director general of military operations and explained our concerns and also shared with him the operations that we had conducted last night."
While both the press conferences accused Pakistan of not adhering to its "commitment made in January 2004 not to allow its soil or territory under its control for any terrorists activities against India", Singh had made it abundantly clear that the Indian Army "expect the Pakistan army to cooperate with us with a view to erase this menace of terrorism from our region".
The MEA spokesperson on Tuesday echoed similar sentiments but directed the same to the government of Pakistan.
"We expect that Pakistan lives up to its public commitment and takes follow up actions to dismantle all JeM and other camps and hold the terrorists accountable for the actions," Gokhale said.
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Updated Date: Feb 26, 2019 13:49:37 IST