India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh has praised the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “giving a free hand” to Indian forces after at least 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) members were killed in a 14 February suicide attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
Singh applauded Modi’s move to authorise the Indian Air Force (IAF)’s strike on an alleged Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM) camp in the town of Balakot in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in late February, claiming that “if Indira Gandhi can get the credit for dividing Pakistan in 1971, why shouldn't Modi get the credit for what he has done in Balakot”.
Singh was echoed by Amit Shah, the national president of Modi’s ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, who said that Pakistan didn't expect the Balakot strike after the Pulwama terror attack because “they have no idea that Narendra Modi, who is elected by the people is the Prime Minister, and not ‘Mauni Baba’ [dumb saint] Manmohan Singh”.
Shah also referred to ordinary Hindu people who were “hopeless” in the wake of the Pulwama attack and who “were speculating that there will be no surgical strike as Pakistan had deployed all of its Army on the border along with tanks and artillery”.
“Everyone thought that nothing will happen, but under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Air Force made the air strike on the [alleged] terrorist camp in Pakistan”, Shah emphasised.
The statement, which comes amid India’s ongoing election campaign, was preceded by Prime Minister Modi’s promise in early March that the 26 February airstrike on the JeM camp may be followed by more actions in New Delhi’s against terrorism on Pakistani territory.
“If one job gets done, our government doesn't sleep; it gets ready for another. We won't lag behind when it comes to making big and bitter decisions. Even if they [terrorists] hide in the bowels of the Earth, it is our principle to kill them by barging into their houses,” Modi stressed.
Last month’s escalation of tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad culminated in a dogfight between the two countries’ warplanes on February 27, when the Indian and Pakistani air force lost a MiG-21 and an F-16 fighter jet, respectively. The air battle was preceded by the Balakot strike, which occurred a day after the deadly Pulwama suicide attack.
Islamabad has repeatedly claimed that the IAF planes never targeted terrorists’ positions during the Balakot strike and that upon investigating India’s dossier on the matter, the Pakistani side did not find any evidence of terror camps at the locations mentioned by New Delhi.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, in turn, accused Modi of being capable of planning any "misadventure" in a bid to secure a second term in the upcoming elections in India, adding that Islamabad would remain on alert to respond to "any aggressive move" by New Delhi until the elections are over in late May.