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26 Feb, 2020 06:59

India won't hesitate to cross borders to fight terrorism, defense chief warns 1 year after strikes on Pakistan-based militants

India won't hesitate to cross borders to fight terrorism, defense chief warns 1 year after strikes on Pakistan-based militants

India's armed forces won't hesitate to cross other nations' borders to protect the country from terrorism, its defense minister declared as New Delhi celebrated last year's airstrike on a militant training camp in Pakistan.

Rajnath Singh saluted "the unmatched bravery and courage" of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in a series of emotive tweets on Wednesday – exactly one year since the country's jets targeted a training facility of Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM), a terrorist grouping based in a Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir.

India will go tough on terrorism under its current prime minister, Singh proclaimed.

Our government led by PM Shri Narendra Modi has adopted a different approach from earlier governments. Now we do not hesitate to cross the border to protect India against terrorism.

The IAF carried out the strikes last February in response to a suicide bomb attack in the Pulwama district of India's Jammu and Kashmir, which killed 43 Indian troops. JeM claimed credit for the bombing, making their camp in Balakot, Pakistan a natural target for the Indian airstrikes.

Also speaking on Wednesday, IAF Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria described the raid as the largest air operation seen in the region for decades, involving 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets. A "large number" of terrorists were killed, according to Indian officials.

Islamabad contested New Delhi's assessment, claiming that no significant targets were hit in the Balakot raid. The air chief, however, insisted that there was "absolutely no doubt that we hit our target and achieved our objectives."

The Pakistani military launched a tit-for-tat strike one day later, eventually downing an Indian fighter jet in a dogfight and capturing its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. He received a hero's welcome when he returned home from Pakistani captivity.

New Delhi, in turn, claimed to have shot down a Pakistani F-16 during the same skirmish, although Pakistan's Air Force has repeatedly denied losing any aircraft – even presenting what it said were four unused missiles retrieved from Varthaman's aircraft.

The Balakot strike and the dogfights that followed pushed the two nuclear-armed foes closer to the brink of war, igniting a series of cross-border skirmishes and artillery shelling from both sides. Some media reports suggested that both India and Pakistan considered using their missile arsenals in the middle of the crisis before diplomatic efforts defused the spiraling tensions.

Also on rt.com Nuclear-armed India & Pakistan vowed missile strikes during Kashmir standoff – report

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