"I speak to you at a moment of great peril to our country and our people. Some hours ago, soon after 5.30 pm on the 3rd December, Pakistan had launched a full-scale war against us… Today a war in Bangladesh has become a war on India… I have no doubt that by the united will of the people, the wanton and unprovoked aggression of Pakistan should be decisively and finally repelled… Aggression must be met and the people of India will meet it with fortitude, determination, discipline and utmost unity… We must be prepared for a long period of hardship and sacrifice." These lines from Mrs Indira Gandhi's December 3, 1971 address to nation marked the beginning of what will be later known as Indo-Pak War. While experts have always said that India realised the might of air power during this war, four decades later, New Delhi changed the wargame on February 26, 2019. Though, the Indian Air Force has not released any official statement on the Balakot air strike, the information so far suggests that it was a very specialised military operation carried out with specific inputs.
Here are 5 points that show how this day will go down in history as the day India changed its tactical approach forever:
1: Attacking deep into Pakistan: This is the first time after the 1971 war that India has crossed the Line of Control. In fact, India always maintained the sanctity of the borders even during the 1999 Kargil War. While the December 8, 1971 attack destroyed Murid Air Base located 120 km inside Pakistan, the fact remains that even the IAF personnel never knew what they hit. It was not a well-thought-out plan. The IAF team led by Squadron Leader RN Bharadwaj, Flying Officer VK Heble, Flying Officer BC Karambaya and Flight Lieutenant AL Deoskar flew British-made Hunters on a fateful day, an NDTV report said. In response and during the ensuing two weeks, the IAF carried out some 4,000 sorties in the West from major and forward bases in Jammu, Kashmir, Punjab and Rajasthan, while, in the East, a further 1,978 sorties were flown in 1971.
2: While 1971 mission destroyed 30% of the Pakistan of the strength of this same 15 Squadron of the Pakistan Air Force, the February 26 air strike was specifically about the terror camps operating on Pakistani soil.
3: More importantly, the Balakot air strike shows that India is capable of carrying out precision-based attacks without any fanfare. The fact that the Indian Air Force got a nod to conduct this air strike deep into Pakistan shows that our armed forces are ready for pre-emptive airstrike knowing the possibilities of retaliation.
4: Reports that Indian Air Force Chief BS Dhanoa personally drafted the masterplan of Balakot air strike means that India is ready to play the hardball.
5: The guarded reaction by China means that this is new India, which can’t be sidelined and told to do something. While calling this an Israel-inspired mission would be too far-fetched, the fact is that we have moved beyond the docile, dove policy.