India and Pakistan seem to have just got over playing “War War” on the February 26 and 27, 2019 testing aerial capabilities of each other and in the end declaring victory. In the absence of hard evidences and credible sources, both the sides have sold their own version of the story to save their faces and let the people make their own judgment.
However, in the age of 4 G network, High Definition camera and uploading facility on social media, it is hard to sell a squinted story, because the other version that is readily available on the internet.
This all began on Valentine day February 14, 2019 when a 19 year old Kashmiri youth carried out a suicide bomb attack on the convoy of Indian soldiers travelling from Jammu to Srinaga that killed 42 CRPF soldiers, the biggest casualty to the armed forces since 1990s when terrorism erupt out in Kashmir valley.
The nation was enraged at the death of the brave soldiers and hysteria of revenge was built in the country and despondency was set all around. Egged by the TRP struck media, countrymen demanded ‘Eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth’ kind of revenge against the perpetrators of the terrorist attack.
Within no time the country’s leadership headed by the Prime Minister Narandra Modi blamed Pakistan for the terrorists attack. In his address he vowed to the nation that he will take revenge and teach a lesson or two to the neighboring country, from where terrorist are coming to India from their terror camps.
Thereafter preparations for the surgical strike 2. 0 begun and media reports suggest that Indian Air force was given a freehand to undertake the operation of surgical strike and destroy the terrorist camps in Pakistan.
It took almost twelve days for the Air force for the preparations of the surgical strike 2.0. On February 26, in a synchronized operation, a group of Mirage 2000 jets and other aircraft took off from several air bases in Western and Central commands at about the same time, leaving Pakistani defence officials confused about where they were heading. From that a small group of aircraft broke away from the swarm and headed to Khybe Pakhtunkhwa province and dropped 1000 Kg bomb killing 350 terrorists and destroying the terrorist camp located in a thick forest on a hilltop of Balakot.
Claims were made that that the camp destroyed was located far from civilian presence looked like a five-star resort with a swimming pool facility. It also claimed that the bombing killed Maulana Yousuf Azhar, alias Ustad Ghouri, the brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar. The entire operation lasted just for 20 minutes, starting at 3.45 am and ending at 4.05 am and the mission was accomplished.
This new was welcomed by the entire nation there were scenes of celebrations in several parts of the country. Prime Minster Narander Modi told a public rally in Rajasthan that the country was in safe hands. He was hailed as “Heil, mein Führer!” (Hail, my leader!), or “Sieg Heil!” (Hail victory!). National anger was assuaged.
However, some of these hard facts started melting down when Pakistan started uploading videos of Indian surgical strike 2.0, giving its own version of the accomplishments made by the Indian Air force.
The videos uploaded from Pakistan showed that there was no large scale damage and there was no debris of the devastated camps and there was no dead bodies strewn anywhere. The video showed a four feet pit where supposedly 1000 kg bomb was dropped by the Indian Air force. They also show interviews of the local residents denying any claims of large scale destruction of life property, as claimed made by the Indian media.
Pakistani officer Major General Asif Ghafoor, director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that Indian fighter planes did cross the line of control and had entered their territory and were challenged by Pakistan Air Force that engaged them in combat mode. This created panic and Indian air crafts started fleeing and while doing so dropped their payload on the uninhabited forest hilly areas inflicting no damage to any human or to any property.
The following day that is February 27, Pakistan Air force conducted a retaliatory strike around 10 Am and claimed that even while remaining inside their own territory they struck on six Indian targets to demonstrate their Ariel capabilities to cause damages. However, since they do not want to escalate the tension any further they avoided any civilian or Army targets.
Pakistan also claimed that its Air force had shot down two Indian Mig 21 fighter planes that had crossed the LOC with one falling on its side and other on the Indian Territory. They also produced Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was piloting the Mig 21 and had ejected from the craft that crashed in Pakistan. He was shown profusely bleeding on the face with Pakistani soldiers holding him in captivity. Pakistan also claimed to have in its custody another Indian pilot who they said was seriously injured and was under treatment in their hospital. Pakistan denied any role of its ‘F 16’ plane during this operation and rebuffed the claim made by India that it had shot down one such plane.
The Indian version of Pakistan’s retaliatory attack was that Pakistan Air force F- 16 planes crossed the LOC and hit four targets not six and were challenged by the Mig 21 fighter plane. In the Ariel engagement Mig 21 shot down one F16 plane that crashed on the other side of the border. Indian official showed wreckage of the Pakistani bomb falling in Indian Territory to claim that it was fired from F -16. There is also a photo showing a piece of wreckage being looked by Pakistani to lay claim that it is F-16. However, in the absence of any credible video of F-16 debris this claim remains a matter of conjecture.
India also denied that Pakistan had shot down its Mig 21 fighter plane and claimed that it lost control due to some technical snag and crashed inside Pakistan territory. India accepted that one of its pilots was missing in action and later admitted that it was Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. However, India did not admit the presence of another pilot in the Mig 21 aircraft as claimed by Pakistan. India also denied Pakistan’s claim that it had shot another Mig 21 that crashed inside the Indian Territory. India said that that the Mig 21 aircraft that crashed in Budgoan in Kashmir had nothing to do with the aerial skirmishes with Pakistan and had crashed due to some technical failure
Now amidst such claims and counter claims made by India and Pakistan, it is hard to separate hard facts from sweet lies. However, the fact remains that India did conducted surgical strike 2.0 on February 26 and Pakistan did a retaliatory strike on February 27. How much damage the two sides inflicted on each other remain in the realm of how much one accept some truth and some lies.
Now when the heat and dust of Indian surgical strike 2.0 is settling down, it can be safely said the balance sheet of this mindless exercise remains captivated in the rhetoric of claims and counter claims made by the two countries. As the passion is running high on the two sides of the border to score some brownie points there is no end to ‘kettle calling the pot black’.
The good point to takeaway is after playing ‘war war’ and tasting each other’s capabilities, India and Pakistan have called truce amidst some truth and some lies being fed to its people.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org