In a pinpointed and swift air strike that lasted less than two minutes, India pounded Jaish-e-Mohammed's biggest training camp in Pakistan early Tuesday, killing up to 350 terrorists and trainers who were moved there for their protection after the Pulwama attack, officials said.
The pre-dawn operation, described as "non-military" and "preemptive", struck a five-star resort-style camp on a hilltop forest that provided Indian forces with a "sitting duck target" and caught the terrorists in their sleep, sources said.
I want to assure the people that the country is in safe hands. There is nothing above the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a public rally in Churu, Rajasthan, in his first remarks after the strike. He, however, did not make a direct reference to the attack or give any details.
Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told the media the "intelligence-led operation" on the Pakistan-based terror group's biggest training camp in Balakot became "absolutely necessary" as it was planning more suicide attacks in India, after the February 14 attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama in which 40 soldiers were killed. The JeM claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack.
Gokhale said the camp was located in Balakot but did not elaborate further. Sources said the reference was to the town in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80 km from the Line of Control and near Abbotabad where Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in hiding by covert US forces.
To discuss the implications of this air strike and the way forward, CNBC-TV18 spoke with SJ Nanodkar, retired Air Vice Marshal; KC Singh, former diplomat and Praveen Swami, Editor of Firstpost.
Nanodkar said, "Today economically Pakistan cannot afford to raise their head the way they have been talking. As far as nuclear threat is concerned, both nations got nuclear bombs."
"Pakistan has been trying to downplay the significance and scale of these attacks since morning in a hope to avoid the escalation into something that it simply cannot afford at this stage," Swami said.
According to Singh, "There is a degree of fatigue globally with this kind of bad behaviour that Pakistan has indulged in."