PM Modi meets service chiefs, Sushma Swaraj works the phones
Indian Air Force warplanes flew deep across the Line of Control in a predawn strike on Tuesday to drop bombs on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s province. New Delhi said “a very large number” of Jaish terrorists were killed in the strike designed to pre-empt suicide attacks by the terror group.
Sources said between 200 and 300 terrorists, commanders and trainers were estimated to have been killed in the air strike that, news agency PTI said, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, had been tracking through the night.
PM Modi had been up too, and was in touch with the NSA, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Air Force Chief BS Dhanoa through the night, long before the first Mirage 2000 took off to cross the line of control.
It was the first in 48 years that an IAF plane entered Pakistani airspace for air strikes and sparked off a sharp reaction from Pakistan that called it an act of aggression.
PM Modi, who chaired the Cabinet Committee on Security meeting that reviewed the situation at 10 am, met chiefs of the three armed forces. This meeting, an official said, lasted 30 minutes.
Pakistan had described the strike as an act of aggression and said it would respond at a time and place of its choosing.
Foreign Sectary Gokhale had underlined that it was self defence. Because there was credible intelligence that the Jaish, which claimed responsibility for the February 14 suicide bombing in Pulwama, was plotting more suicide attacks in various parts of the country.
Hours after the top diplomat made the announcement, the foreign ministry reached out to foreign envoys including those of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - about the Indian Air Force’s “non-military pre-emptive action” on Jaish’s biggest training camp.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj too worked the phones. Sushma Swaraj told the all party meeting that she had spoken to the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo over the air strike. Quoting sources, news agency ANI said the foreign minister had also dialed her counterparts in China, Singapore, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
The outreach was followed by strong statements by the French and Australian government. The French foreign ministry spokesperson said Paris recognized India’s legitimacy to protect itself from cross-border terrorism and asked Pakistan to stop terror groups. Australia also asked Pakistan to “do everything possible” to enforce its ban on Jaish-e-Mohammed. “It can no longer allow extremist groups the legal and physical space to operate from its territory,” Australian foreign minister Marise Payne said.
Vijay Gokhale said India had accounted for the location of the terror camp in a deep forest on a hilltop to avoid civilian casualties.