Pakistan may have limited its options for retaliation by denying any damage to non-state actors based on its soil

by Manu Pubby

The Indian military has gone on high alert following the anti-terror air strikes but Pakistan may have limited its options for retaliation by denying any damage to non-state actors based on its soil. Shelling has intensified along the Line of Control (LoC) and Indian air defence networks that are on amber alert shot down a Pakistani drone in Gujarat. 

In a playbook response — similar to that following the surgical strikes of 2016 — Pakistan said Indian bombs did not have any impact on infrastructure on its territory. However, it “condemned” the Indian action, saying that eight fighter jets had crossed the border and were intercepted. 

With its oft-repeated stand that outfits targeting India do not operate from its soil, Pakistan has little option to acknowledge that terrorists have been killed in the strike. However, these non-state actors could also be the prime weapon for covert retaliation through the orchestration of large-scale terror attacks in India. 

The Pakistani military’s statements indicate that it’s under heavy pressure to act, with a spokesperson saying that India must “wait for our response” and that it would come at a “point and time of our choosing.” 

Spyder Air Defence Missiles Used First Time 

Given that it has claimed no damage by Indian fighter jets, the Pakistani air force will not have easy targets for revenge as any strike on a military facility here would be seen as an act of war, which could escalate into a full-scale conflict. 

The air force and the army’s aviation unit have been put on alert for a possible cross-border strike — low-flying helicopters and slow-moving transport planes along the Line of Control can be easy targets for Pakistani troops equipped with shoulder-launched air defence missiles as well as medium-range missile units. 

Indian early warning aircraft and Aerostat radars are on full operational alert to look out for Pakistani aerial activity. Given the high alert level, India used its Spyder air defence missiles for the first time, taking down a Pakistani UAV that had intruded into airspace over Gujarat on Tuesday morning. 

Similar instructions to take down all incoming military targets have been sent to all units and quick-reaction fighters at forward bases have been put on war alert. Along the Line of Control, heavy shelling has been reported in the Nowshera, Rajouri and Poonch sectors and Indian troops are on the alert for possible strikes by Border Action Teams (BAT) that are known to target patrolling troops and posts. 

The Indian Navy too is on its highest alert as part of the Theatre-Level Operational Readiness Exercise (Tropex) war game. As reported by ET, the exercise is at a “tactical pause” with all participating warships spread out on the high seas and going silent for a few days before regrouping for the final phase of a simulated naval battle. All operational ships, submarines and aircraft are participating in this exercise.