On the first anniversary of the Balakot airstrike by Indian Air Force planes on 26 February 2019, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has said that New Delhi won't hesitate to cross the border to safeguard its people against terrorism.
In a series of tweets, the minister gave credit for the bold decision to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while adding that it was a “new and confident India in the making” under Modi's leadership and thanked him for his approach against terrorism.
“India today celebrates the first anniversary of the Balakot airstrikes. It was a successful counter-terror operation launched by the fearless @IAF_MCCair warriors. With the success of the Balakot airstrikes India has clearly demonstrated its strong will against terrorism", Rajnath Singh said on Wednesday.
I salute the @IAF_MCC for its unmatched bravery and courage exhibited during Balakote air strikes. Our government led by PM Shri @narendramodi has adopted a different approach from earlier governments. Now we do not hesitate to cross the border to protect India against terrorism.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) February 26, 2020
To mark the first anniversary, India Air Force’s Chief, Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria will fly with MiG-21 pilots to Srinagar. He will fly a MiG-21 Bison aircraft with the 51st Squadron of the Indian Air Force.
Wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by the Pakistani Army for a brief time during the airstrikes, was part of the same unit.
In the wee hours of 26 February 2019, the Indian Air Force launched an airstrike on a suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist training camp in the Pakistani town of Balakot in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Indian warplanes crossed the de facto border in the disputed region of Kashmir and dropped bombs, followed by a dogfight the next day.
The bombing inside Pakistani territory was in retaliation for a suicide attack on a convoy of troops in the Pulwama district of Indian-administered Kashmir that left 40 soldiers dead on 14 February 2019 by a JeM bomber.
Pakistan, however, rejected India’s claim that there were any terrorist camps in the area, as well as the killing of a large number of militants supposedly hiding in the Balakot region and invited foreign journalists and diplomats to visit the airstrike site. Pakistan's then army spokesman Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor had said that India missed the target and “no harm” was done.
India and Pakistan have a long-standing dispute over the Kashmir region. The territory is divided into Indian-and Pakistan-administered regions, while New Delhi claims the entirety of Jammu and Kashmir as part of its territory. The countries have fought three wars since they attained freedom from British colonial rule in 1947, two on Kashmir and a third for the liberation of Bangladesh.