Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Sunday that India’s action against a major Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot was necessitated because Islamabad wasn’t acting on terrorists.
Addressing a gathering at FICCI Women Leaders’ meet in Chennai, the Defence Minister said that military establishment in Pakistan continues to support terrorism and uses non-state actors.
“One thing is very clear Pakistan wasn’t acting on terrorists. It continues to be the country where terrorists are trained, funded, supported by military establishment and sent across,” she said.
“Its (Pakistan’s) theory of using non-state actors to keep terrorism going on continues without disturbance,” she added.
Referring to the 26 February attack by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Pak-based JeM’s training camp in Balakot Sitharaman said that it was the nerve centre of fidayeen (suicide bombers) terrorists.
“We took decision to hit that nerve centre which was training, funding and giving capacity to what they call Fidayeen. Since we had enough intel information to say that that’s where it is coming out of, we acted on terror so that it no longer goes unattended,” she said.
Sitharaman reiterated that the action was non-military in nature and was carried out because Pakistan itself doesn’t act on terrorism.
“It was not a military action; it was a targeted attack on terrorists which actually Pakistan should have done, they didn’t,” she said.
Sitharaman’s remarks came at a time when a political slugfest over proof of the airstrike continues with some opposition parties demanding that the Narendra Modi government furnish proof of its efficacy in terms of terrorist casualties at the JeM camp that was bombed.
The February 26 airstrike was the first time since the 1971 Indo-Pak war when IAF fighter jets not only crossed the LoC but also went into Pakistani airspace to destroy a JeM camp. India’s action against the terrorists came after a JeM suicide bomber attacked a CRPF convoy in Pulwama killing 44 troopers.
In retaliation, PAF fighter jets tried to bomb Indian military installations in Jammu-Kashmir but were thwarted by an alert IAF. While Pakistan lost an F-16, IAF lost a MiG 21 Bison in an aerial combat that ended with an IAF pilot getting captured by Pakistani Army.
On 1 March, Pakistan released the pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, in what Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called a “peace gesture”. Islamabad was, however, under immense diplomatic pressure to release the Wg Cdr due to the Geneva Convention.