Former (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal (retd) spoke to Jayanta Gupta on the precision strike carried out by the in Balakot and the Pakistani retaliation that followed. Excerpts…

Pakistan claims to have captured an IAF officer on Wednesday. What do you think took place?

If the officer arrested by Pakistani authorities is really Wg Cdr , then I can say that he is like my son. I have known him for long and he is a wonderful person and excellent pilot. His father, Air Marshal (retd) Simhakutty Varthaman, was a year senior to me. However, there are bound to be some repercussions when such a bold step is taken. The Pakistan Air Force tried to attack and there was aerial engagement. We brought down one of their aircraft and they did the same with one of ours. Such things happen during operations. One side can’t expect to throw all the punches without receiving a few. Hopefully, things will cool down soon and our pilot will be sent back. I am also sure that Pakistan realizes that Wg Cdr is a warrior and treat him with the dignity one deserves.

What do you have to say about India’s strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) set-up in Balakot?

India has borne the brunt of terror strikes from across the border for long. The target was a terrorist build-up, sponsored by agencies from across the border. Even after the surgical strikes carried out by India in 2016, terror strikes continued with support from across the border. The armed forces, with support from intelligence agencies, had to react. Targeting was essential and there was complete surprise as nobody ever thought that the IAF would be used. This was just the next step to the first surgical strike, only against a larger infrastructure. We just went a step higher. This was necessary. Otherwise, they would have thought that they can get away with anything. After all, they can’t just keep on hitting us.

Do you believe that the outcome of the strike was as desired?

Oh, certainly! The air operations were carried out flawlessly and the selection of targets was great. This was an example of the resolve of the government. The steps taken by the Indian government were certainly very good. There has also been a good response from the international community.

Do you believe that India has achieved what it set out to do?

Yes. The whole world has woken up and there is tremendous pressure on Pakistan to shut down the terror infrastructure operating there. Things have now reached the diplomatic domain and there is much effort from the international community to keep things from escalating further. For this, Pakistan will be forced to take necessary steps unless it wants to face total isolation.

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