Chennai: Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has refuted the allegation that air strikes carried out by the Indian Air Force on Jaish-e-Mohammad training camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir had anything to do with politics and clarified that the statement of Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on the Balakot strikes is government of India's position.
Responding to the allegations of the Opposition that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were trying to politicise the IAF air strikes, she said the air strikes are in no way connected to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. "There is no relationship between the air strike and elections. It was based upon intelligence inputs on terrorist activities in Pakistan, to be unleashed against India. It was not a military action as there was no civilian casualties," Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters here on Tuesday.
The Congress and other Opposition parties have alleged that the Centre was trying to politicise the IAF action and also questioned the claims on high number of casualties in the IAF strikes. Asked about the number of casualties in the IAF strikes at Balakot, Air Marshal B. S. Dhanoa said on Monday that it was not IAF's job to count bodies. "Indian Air Force does not count casualties in an operation, only the targets," Air Marshal Dhanoa said replying to a question on the number of casualties. The government too has not issued any figure on the number of casualties.
In a pre-dawn operation on February 26, the IAF bombed a J-e-M training camp in Balakot, Chakothi and Muzaffarabad. The strike came 12 days after the Pulwama terror suicide attack that killed over 40 CRPF personnel.
"The foreign secretary gave the statement; that is the position of the government of India," Nirmala Sitharaman said, referring to the briefing by Vijay Gokhale on the day the air strikes took place. The foreign secretary did not disclose any figures but his statement read: "in this operation, a very large number of J-e-M terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated."
"There is no need to analyse more on Balakot strike… after Pulwama attack, we were waiting patiently for days. When we got information that the terrorist attacks were originating from that region (Pakistan), without military action, we carried out the strike pointedly," she explained. Civilians in the vicinity or surrounding areas were not affected in any way, so the government has been saying the strike carried after Pulwama suicide bombing was not a military action, she added.
She said Pakistan had failed to take action against terror groups despite India providing details of terrorist training camps. On peace talks proposed by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sitharaman said, "we have always been telling that India will be ready to hold talks only if they act against terrorism."
To a question, she replied, the decision on allowing IAF wing Commander Abhinandan to fly the fighter jet would be taken by senior IAF officials in consultation with the doctors treating him.