That means, India was ready to escalate the attacks against Pakistan by targeting major Pakistani forward brigades, not just posts along the LoC

In a big revelation post retirement, former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief BS Dhanoa has said that India would have attacked Pakistan Army installations if Pakistan Air Force had successfully hit Indian targets on February 27 (a day after India's strike on terror camp in Balakot).

"Since the PAF had targeted military installations on the 27th of February (a day after India struck the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp near Balakot), the Pakistan Army had now become a legitimate target and had their strikes been successful, we would have put a considerable weight of attack on their forward brigades,'' Dhanoa said during a discussion on 'Understanding The Message of Balakot' in Chandigarh.

That means, India was ready to escalate the attacks against Pakistan by targeting major Pakistani forward brigades, not just posts along the LoC.

In its retaliatory attack against India's strike in Balakot, Pakistan Air Force was not able to hit a single military installations in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri-Poonch sector despite launching precision guided bombs on February 27.

However, former Air Chief Marshal regretted that India "could not impose significant costs on the PAF on the 27th of February" due to technological disadvantage and added the people responsible for delay in upgradation of Indian defence capabilities are equally responsible for this missed opportunity.

He said that the biggest lesson from the limited period engagement of Balakot was that "technology matters".

He said the outcome of the Feb 27 dog fight between Indian and Pakistan fighter jets would have been different if India had the technological advantage in the form of advanced aircraft like Rafale.

"What about the responsibility of people who were to get this technology and kept negotiating for nearly 10 years to get the MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft)? What would have happened in the same engagement had Wing Commander Abhinandan (Varthaman) been flying Rafale aircraft instead of MiG 21- bison?" he asked.

"These people are equally responsible to the nation for not imposing significant cost on the Pakistan Air Force post Balakot," he added.

Talking about Balakot attack, Dhanoa said the message of the Balakot air strike was to tell the Pakistani establishment and terrorist organisations that there will be a cost to pay for terror attacks in India which was effectively conveyed.

Dhanoa asserted that there was a paradigm shift in the way the Indian government responds to terrorist attacks involving mass casualties. He pointed out that there was no military response from the Indian state after the 1993 bomb blast in Mumbai and the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

"The first response came after terror attack at Uri in 2016 and it was retaliated by the Army with an attack on destroying terror launch pads inside Pakistan Occupied Kashmir," said Dhanoa, who retired from service on September 30.

Pakistan got the message that the new government will respond militarily to a major terror attack on its soil, he further said.

Dhanoa said that after the Pulwama attack in February in which 40 people were killed, the Pakistani establishment had feared that there would be retaliation. "There were only two questions -- when and where the retaliation will take place," he said.

A decision was taken to strike a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist training camp in Pakistan's Balakot area as the terror organisation was behind the Pulwama attack.

"The government and political will was very clear to tell the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Pakistani establishment that such attacks would come at a cost and no matter where you are, be it PoK or Pakistan, we will get you and that is the message of Balakot," Dhanoa said.

Pointing towards the poor fiscal health of Pakistan, Dhanoa said that in February 2019, the neighbouring country was reeling under severe financial crisis.

"Their foreign reserves were USD 50 billion compared to USD 400 billion in our case. Had they gone to war with us, they would have literally eaten the grass," he said.