How India Managed Escalation Control Post Balakot Airstrike?
Escalation control is one of the key determinants of any offensive options exercised by a military. While the Indian Air Force choose to on orders of the government cross the Line of Control deep into Pakistani territory to strike at the terrorist training camp of the Jaish e Mohammad, the scope for escalation exists and will remain so days till there is a modicum of engagement between India and Pakistan.
However Indian security establishment has worked on escalation control by structuring their assertion of the 26 February strikes as justification against a non state actor, pre-emption and non-military targeting. This has left Pakistan with very limited scope for escalation even though a deeply frustrated military may undertake a cross border adventure for which it alone will be blame worthy.
Some of the elements in India’s escalation control are as follows:-
Non Military Target – Jaish E Mohammad a UN prescribed terrorist group was targeted specifically, no civilian casualties or Pakistan military objective attacked. This was emphasised by the Foreign Secretary in his statement as well as the Minister for External Affairs Ms Sushma Swaraj in her statement to the media after an all party meet. She emphasised that Terror and not Pakistan was the target of attack.
Emphasis on the Jaish E Mohammad an organisation proscribed by the United States and which had claimed the terrorist attack at Pulwama on 14 February needs to be underlined.
Laying the onus on Pakistan for having failed to react to information provided by India of the Jaish camp from time to time and continued denial of existence and refusal to take action against the group.
Credible Intelligence of possible suicide attacks by JeM were received by the Indian establishment. Thus pre-emptive strike was absolutely necessary to avoid more attacks.
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.
Failure of Pak to stand by the commitment made in January 2004 not to allow its soil or territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India thus again the onus remained on Pakistan.
Giving a completely civilian face to the operation – The photographs of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) did not include the chiefs, whereas the post 2016 surgical strike did include the same.