THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 20 MARCH 2019 (What has changed post-Balakot? (The Hindu)

What has changed post-Balakot? (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Internal Security
Prelims level: Balakot Attack
Mains level: Challenges to the internal security in the border areas


  •  The situation between India and Pakistan seems to have returned to the pre-Pulwama position.
  •  The High Commissioners, withdrawn in February for ‘consultations’, have returned to Islamabad and Delhi.
  •  Talks on Kartarpur are proceeding.
  •  The UN Security Council 1267 Committee failed to designate Masood Azhar as a terrorist because China faithfully put a technical hold on the proposal.
  •  It had done so in 2009 and 2017, following it up with a veto.

The facts

  •  The bare facts. On February 14, Adil Ahmed Dar drove his vehicle into a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy crossing Pulwama, killing 40 personnel and becoming the first Indian fedayeen.
  •  Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a terrorist organisation based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility.
  •  Facing elections in two months, the Narendra Modi government promised strong retaliation.

Steps taken at the diplomatic level

  •  At a diplomatic level, it called for Pakistan’s isolation.
  •  Pakistan’s most favoured nation trade status was withdrawn and punitive tariffs imposed, though this impacted Indian exporters more as the balance is heavily in India’s favour.
  •  This was followed by an announcement that India would stop water flows into Pakistan; it was later clarified that the reference was to the waters of the three rivers (Ravi, Beas and Sutlej) that India was in any case entitled to, and further, to build storage and irrigation facilities would take five years.
  •  After the September 2016 terrorist strike, also by the JeM at an Indian Army base at Uri, the government had launched pre-emptive ‘surgical strikes’ across the Line of Control (LoC), and said it had destroyed launch pads and attacked terrorists assembled there. Similar shallow cross-border retaliatory actions had been undertaken earlier too but without publicity or the label of ‘surgical strikes’.
  •  Pakistan, however, denied the ‘surgical strike’ of September 29. India declared it had conveyed a signal to Pakistan that it was no longer business as usual and the Modi government would not shy away from raising the ante.

Events and claims

  •  Unlike post-Uri, this time Pakistani authorities acknowledged the airspace intrusion, claiming that Pakistani aircraft had scrambled forcing the Mirages to drop their ordnance and withdraw hastily.
  •  Pakistan promised retaliation, and the following morning its fighter aircraft intruded into Indian airspace. In the dog-fight that ensued, an Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-21 was downed and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman ended up in Pakistani custody.
  •  If India had thought about retaliating further, having a pilot in Pakistani custody made it pause; for Pakistan, its honour having been restored, it provided the opportunity to demonstrate statesmanship.
  •  The Indian pilot was returned on March 1 and the crisis de-escalated.
  •  Pakistan maintains that there were no casualties at Balakot. Indian aircraft withdrew having damaged a pine forest in KP.
  •  Pakistan demonstrated resolve with its counter-strike on the 27th as well as restraint by not bombing the Indian targets after having locked on to them, signalling to the Indian side their vulnerability.
  •  It had initially claimed downing two Indian jets, that later became one. Pakistan denied that an F-16 was downed but the Indian authorities did exhibit part of an Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) missile, normally carried by an F-16. Pakistan demonstrated its good faith by returning the Indian pilot promptly.
  •  Its diplomatic clout is evident that its all-weather-friend, China, stood by it in the UN Security Council.

Rhetoric and reality

  •  It is true that unlike the ‘surgical strikes’ which were in disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, this time India targeted a location in Pakistani territory.
  •  Pakistan’s intrusion into Jammu and Kashmir the following day did not claim casualties, nor was any military facility on the Indian side attacked.
  •  Both sides were observing restraint even as armchair gladiators reached fever pitch in the TV studios.
  •  Pakistan’s four nuclear red lines are: capture of a large part of its territory, its military facing unacceptable loss, India attempting economic strangulation, and finally, large-scale political destabilisation. Clearly, none of the red lines was even close to being crossed. Therefore, nobody was calling anybody’s nuclear bluff.
  •  The military realises that such strikes provide temporary emotional satisfaction but not lasting deterrence, either through denial or punishment. A strike that targets a bunch of terrorists and is ‘non-military’ and is ‘pre-emptive’ rather than punitive cannot be expected to change Pakistan army’s policy of using jihadi groups.
  •  And that is why such attacks will happen again.


  •  Denying these requires better and timely intelligence, and punitive retaliation requires enhanced kinetic capability.
  •  Only then will India ensure deterrence though the emergence of home-grown fedayeen indicates growing radicalisation at home.
  •  Lack of factual detail may have helped manage the dynamics of de-escalation because the militaries understand the dangers of escalation.
  •  Yet there is always the unexpected X-factor, and in the fog of war, risks get amplified.
  •  So not much has changed post-Balakot but there are questions that deserve serious consideration.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to India's Public Debt, consider the following statements:
1. Majority of India's debt is contracted at floating rate and is thus prone to interest rate fluctuations.
2. Majority of the central government's debt is denominated in the Indian Rupee.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B

Mains Questions:
Q.1) Critically examine the post-Pulwama attack timeline shows that India did not cross any Pakistani red line

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