‘Air strikes were meant to warn, not kill.’ says Union minister Ahluwalia
Amid questions by opposition leaders about the casualty figures in India’s air strikes in Pakistan, Union minister of state, electronic and IT, S S Ahluwalia said that the strikes were meant to scare and warn and not to take human lives.
“Has Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the 300 figure (of casualty), or did any spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party say so? Did Amit Shah give any figure even once? The air strikes were designed to demonstrate that we can enter your home, despite your (Pakistan’s) elaborate security arrangements, and can strike at will at terror locations that we have properly identified,” said Ahluwalia, the Darjeeling MP, in Siliguri on Friday.
“We did not want any human casualty,” the minister said in Bengali.
Ahluwalia, who spent his student years in Bengal and studied in Calcutta University, speaks the language fluently.
He was responding to Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s remarks on Thursday questioning the number of casualties in the India’s strike in Balakot on February 26.
“We have the right to know how many people were killed in the air strikes launched by India. Is it 300, or 350? I read in the international media that the bombs landed somewhere else. How many actually perished? Or, did anyone die at all?” the Trinamool Congress chief had asked.
Following Ahluwalia’s remarks, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) asked on Twitter whether the government was now backtracking from its claims that it took out a terrorist camp in Pakistan.
Incidentally, on Saturday, speaking at a public rally in Madhya Pradesh, BJP president Amit Shah criticised Banerjee for her Thursday remarks.
Hours after the air strikes on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in a briefing, “Credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country, and the fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose. In the face of imminent danger, a pre-emptive strike became absolutely necessary.”
“India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated. This facility at Balakot was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar (alias Ustad Ghouri), the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar , Chief of JeM,” he said.
He did not mention any specific number of casualties.