IAF Pounds Balakot
CECIL VICTOR. Editorial. VI.II.XIX
By Cecil Victor
De-escalate! De-escalate! Is the flavour of the season.
There is a nip in the winter air and Pakistan is facing a tsunami of political disturbances both from the east and the west. Suddenly the cricketer-politician Imran Khan finds that no amount of ball-tampering will make the ball swing in the desired direction. In this case dragging India back into the unproductive talk trap. But try he did.
Indian aircraft launched a deep strike into the cradle of Pakistani terrorism in Balakot in the heartland of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which is Imran Khan’s political bailiwick. Pakistan tried to tamper with the narrative by first claiming that no damage was done and that the Pakistan Air Force had scrambled and chased the IAF away. When it threatened to retaliate for the “non attack”, it gave the game away.
Even its ‘all-weather friend’ China deserted it and joined the chorus of condemnation of Pakistan for allowing territory under its control for terrorist attacks. Imran, the ace cricketer, now knows what a “Chinaman” ball looks like. (It is delivery from a left arm bowler that leaves a right-hand batsman and turns into a left hand batsman). The term is attributed by Wikipaedia to a British batsman at an Old Trafford Test who was bowled by a West Indian player of Chinese descent. He had this to say about the cause of his misery: “"Fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman”.
--From the west came the gust of desert sandstorm as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), for the first time, invited the Indian External Affairs Minister to attend the meeting in Abu Dhabi as Guest of Honour. Pakistan was aghast and tried to use the threat of refusal to attend to deflect the implications of this diplomatic disaster. Eventually its Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureishi had to sit out of the meeting gnashing his teeth impotently as no one in the Muslim world paid heed to his demand to withdraw the invitation.
Then it launched an air armada of twenty aircraft armed to the teeth to hit Indian ground targets under protective escort provided by US-supplied F-16 aircraft carrying advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM). It was a foolhardy manoeuvre sought to be executed in broad daylight with the intention of showing to the world that Pakistan is not intimidated by India. It turned out to be an unmitigated disaster – no Indian high-value target was hit but one F-16 aircraft was shot down in a dogfight with an Indian MiG-21 Bison. The rest of the Pakistani fleet fled back to their bases.
Once again Pakistani perfidy was exposed because the F-16s were supplied specifically to be used against Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the War Against Terror but Pakistan’s military establishment had diverted it against India (just as it had done with US supplied Stinger shoulder-fired missiles during the Kargil invasion of 1999).
A deadly fast bowler who was adept at lifting the seam of the ball to impart a pronounced swing in the air by using a bottle top (dhakkan) Imran Khan is a self-confessed ball-tamperer who has morphed into bowling googlies. The first was when he offered the olive branch to India when he was sworn in but at the same time escalated tensions by allowing free rein to terrorist groups operating under the patronage of the Pakistan Army from cantonments, jails and even hospitals safe in the knowledge that India will not attack any building marked with a red cross in keeping with the niceties of the Geneva Conventions.
In the backdrop of the Geneva Conventions Imran Khan tried to use the captured pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as a pawn to bring India to the negotiating table.
Stung badly by Pakistani treatment of Indian prisoners during the Kargil war (the body of Captain Saurab Kalia was mutilated with eyes gouged out and worse) and decapitation of soldiers in skirmishes along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, the government of India insisted that Wing Commander Abhinandan be returned unconditionally and unharmed. Faced with a tri-nation (France, US and UK) move in the UN to have Masood Azhar be designated a global terrorist Imran Khan and the Pakistan military establishment decided to avoid being indicted for war crimes as well.
They decided to return the pilot but the curve ball was in the escalation of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control –if India agreed to talks it would have to do it under duress in Kashmir.
Retain the air superiority forged by Wing Commander Abhinandan by showing that India can be protected even with obsolescent aircraft (just as we did against the Patton tanks at Asal Uttar in 1965) and continue to fly 24-hour combat air patrols all along the borders with Pakistan from north to south.
Let a new ball-game happen under the “nuclear overhang”.
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