Forces are only waiting for political sanction, claims report

Even as the tension remains high between India and Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack and the ensuing cross-border engagements, a new report claims that New Delhi is prepared to launch another strike against its neighbour.

According to the India TV report, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) met on Tuesday to discuss the future strategy on Pakistan. It said during the meeting National Security Adviser Ajit Doval informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the three forces—Air Force, Army and Navy—were ready for any action against Pakistan and that they were only waiting for a political sanction.

According to the report, Modi assured a free hand to the forces while urging them to ensure that no civilian was killed in the attack and that the targets should be military-related.

During the CCS meeting, it was agreed that not only Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, the target can also be inside Pakistan, the report claimed.

The tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours escalated after the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group orchestrated a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, killing 40 Jawans. India retaliated after 12 days as a fleet of the IAF fighter jets crossed the border and pounded a major training camp of the terror outfit at Balakot.

The Balakot strike triggered a dogfight between the two air forces which resulted in the loss of a fighter jet from each side and a brief detention of IAF Wing Commander Abhinadan Varthaman by Pakistan Army. The IAF claimed that Varthaman had shot down an F-16 jet of Pakistan before ejecting from his crashing MiG-21 Bison jet.

On Thursday, two senior US defence officials rejected India's claim that it had shot down an F-16 jet during the dogfight. The officials told the Foreign Policy journal that the US personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing.

The report about India's preparation for another strike on Pakistan comes days ahead of the general elections in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party are looking for a return to power. Modi and his party leaders have been raking up the Balakot strike and India's successful anti-satellite missile test during their poll campaigns prompting the opposition leaders to accuse the government of using armed forces and other institutions for political gains.