Operation Balakot: What went on behind the Scene
On 25 Feb 2019 evening, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanwa PVSM, AVSM, YSM, VM, ADC had hosted a farewell dinner for the retiring Air Marshal Chandrashekharan Hari Kumar, PVSM, AVSM, VM, VSM, ADC, AOC-in-C in the sprawling Akash Air Force Officers’ Mess, New Delhi.
The party was attended by eighty senior officers of the Indian Air Force. During the party, the Air Chief took Air Marshal Hari Kumar, aside to the lawn and told him, “The word is Bandar”. Air Marshal Hari Kumar said, “OK”. Then, they went back to the party.
The party ended a little after 10.30 pm. All the officers, including the Chief of the Air Staff, came out to the Portico to wave farewell to Mrs and Air Marshal Hari Kumar.
Two Senior Officers held the car doors open for the guests of honour to be seated in their gleaming black Ambassador car. In a few moments, the staff car glided out of the main gate of Akash Mess and headed to the AOC-in-C’s official residence.
As the car was negotiating the “Dhaula Kuan” round-about, Mrs Devika Kumar asked the Air Marshal, ‘what is the take-off time to go to Chandigarh tomorrow?’.
Air Marshal said that ‘I have an urgent meeting tomorrow. So you may have to go to Chandigarh alone. Do not worry. A staff officer will be there with you to take care of everything you may need for the trip’.
She was shocked hearing her husband’s response. She dreamt of establishing a School for Special Children of the IAF personnel for a long time.
That school was completed just before the time of AOC-in-C’s retirement. Therefore, she was invited to go to Chandigarh with her husband to inaugurate the school on 26 Feb 2019. It was a firm commitment made weeks back.
She failed to comprehend how her husband had the heart to refuse to honour that commitment. She grumbled within. She mentally admitted that she could not understand these Air Force guys even after spending more than three decades in the IAF with her husband. Mrs Devilka Kumar did not talk to her husband for the rest of the journey home. She was pretty upset with him.
However, that night Mrs Devika Kumar was totally unaware of what was going on in her husband’s mind.
Here we need to take a flashback to understand the situation. On 29 Sep 2016, Operation Surgical Strike was conducted by the Indian Army very successfully.
Yet, Pakistan would not learn a lesson and continued troubling India with sporadic terror strikes every now and then. But they crossed their limit with impunity on 14 Feb2019. 44 Indian Central Reserve Police (CRPF) personnel were brutally killed by a Kashmiri separatist youth named Adil Ahmed Dar.
He rammed his explosive-laden SUV into a large convoy of vehicles carrying CRPF personnel and blew himself up in the bargain. With that horrible blast, dismembered dead bodies were seen strewn all around.
Pakistan based Islamic terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for this cowardly act.
To add insult to injury, Fawad Chaudhry, a Pakistani Minister in Imran Khan’s Government, made a statement in Pakistani Parliament. He said with great bravado that they had entered India and killed their armed police personnel without resistance.
He hailed the heinous act as a ‘Major Achievement’ of Imran Khan’. That was the last straw for the Indian public. They were seething with anger and hankering for retaliatory action.
On 15 Feb 2019, the Prime Minister called for the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) emergency meeting.
This was to correctly assess the security situation in J & K in the light of the grave terrorist attack of the event and decide upon the future course of action for India. The then Defence Minister attended the meeting among other members of the CCS.
On the same day, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanwa was briefed about India’s choices for retaliatory action.
No one wanted India to take a step that could trigger a full-scale war. Yet there was no denying that India had to make it amply clear to Pakistan that it would not tolerate terrorist activities on her soil anymore.
So it was a challenging task to ascertain the right balanced course of action.
Here, it is pertinent to mention that the Pakistani Military Commanders call the shots and decide upon when and how to take military action.
Later, they keep the Pakistani Government in the loop. In India, the job of the Armed Forces is to maintain defence preparedness for any eventuality. But the final trigger for action has to be pulled by the Government of India to order the Armed Forces to go ahead. Going for Military Action is subject to a political decision in this country.
In the present case, the Government order to take Military Action came on 15 Feb 2019. As they say in the military parlance, “the flag went up”.
…….(To be Continued)
This blog is being written to commemorate the third anniversary of Operation Balakot which took place in the early hours of 26 Feb 2019.
Arduous planning went into the execution of the operation which culminated into a spectacular success. General public may not be aware of what all went on behind the scene. Preparation for Operation Balakot is a long story.
Therefore, it is being published in parts. All information stated here have been collected form open media through painstaking research. No military secret has been divulged in this blog. A complete bibliography will be given at the end of the last part of this story.
- PVSM: Param Vishisht Seva Medal.
- AVSM: Ati Vishsihist Seva Medal.
- YSM: Yudh Seva Medal.
- VM: Vayu Sena Medal
- ADC: Aide-de-Camp
- VSM: Vishisht Seva Medal
- AOC-in-C: Air Officer Commanding in Chief.
- Bandar: Monkey
- SUV: Sport Utility Vehicle