New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: It was this day last year when in a cowardly attack, a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist rammed a truck carrying 300 kg explosives into a convey of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, killing 40 soldiers.

Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed the responsibility of the attack. The terrorist who carried out the deadly suicide attack was identified as Adil Ahmad Dar -- a resident of Pulwama district. Intelligence reports suggested that the attack was supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), flaring tensions between India and Pakistan.

Protests erupted across the country with people demanding action against those who conducted this cowardly attack. The attack condemned by the US, UK, France and Russia.

Pakistan’s ‘all-weather ally’ China too backed the United Nation Security Council’s (UNSC) resolution on the "heinous and cowardly" Pulwama terror attack that was unanimously adopted by permanent and non-permanent member countries of the global body.

After this Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the neighbouring country could not weaken India by orchestrating attacks and those responsible would pay a “very heavy price”.

“Security forces have been given complete freedom, the blood of the people is boiling. Our neighbouring country, which has been isolated internationally, thinks such terror attacks can destabilise us, but their plans will not materialise,” PM Modi said, without mentioning Pakistan by name.

Soon in retaliatory step, New Delhi withdrew the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) from Pakistan which meant that Islamabad won’t get preference in trade agreement. India also launched extensive diplomatic efforts to get JeM chief Masood Azhar designated as a ‘global terrorist’.

Then after 12 days, the Indian Air Force (IAF) conducted air stirkes in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province at a terror camp of JeM. In a daring raid, 12 Mirage fighter jets, backed by ten Sukhio Su-30 MKIs, conducted the air strikes.

“In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of today (Feb 26), India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very 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, the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, Chief of JeM,” the then Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in a press conference later in the day, terming it as “non-military, pre-emptive air strikes”.

This was India’s first air strike against Pakistan since the War of 1971.

According to reports, the decision to carry out the air strikes were taken 24 hours after the Pulwama attack. The IAF was given time to select targets and launch the air strikes. Over the next few days, the R&AW and the other intelligence agencies worked to decide about the possible targets and soon it was decided that the Balakot’s Jaba top was selected for the IAF strikes. The government was given the details about Balakot and and a plan was laid out.

Then on the dawn of February 26, the IAF conducted the strikes. The Mirage 2000s hit three targets in Balakot with five Israeli-origin Spice 2000 bombs with penetrator warheads. The IAF claimed that the whole base was destroyed in the attack and reports claimed that as many as 300 terrorists were killed in the attack.

The air strikes were widely praised by the domestic population of India. The international community supported India’s action against terrorism. However, they asked India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and asked the two countries to avoid actions that would destabilise the situation in the region.

However, a day later, Pakistan retaliated to the airstrikes in Balakot by conducting strikes at military installations in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the IAF foiled PAF’s attempt. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman piloting a MiG-21 Bison aircraft shot down a much-advanced F-16 of PAF in an aerial skirmish. However, Varthaman’s jet was also shot down by Pakistan’s Surface-to-Air missile (SAM), leading to his capture.

He was released by Pakistan after two days due to international pressure. Upon returning to India, Varthaman received a hero’s welcome.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma