India’s imaginative success

An Indian attack on alleged terrorist camps in Balakot and an aerial clash with Pakistan has been the focus of the world media and analysts. They have not only disputed Indian claims of killing 300 to 400 militants, but also identified limitations of its armed forces. The clash has also proved the superiority of the armed forces of Pakistan and brought the Kashmir issue to the international limelight.

The downing of an Indian plane has shocked observers. They say the loss has laid bare the challenges faced by the India’s armed forces. Pakistan’s JF-17 jet fighter, which hit the Indian plane, also rose to prominence in the whole world. According to renowned journalist Robert Fisk, Israel has been assiduously lining itself up alongside India’s nationalist BJP government in an unspoken — and politically dangerous — “anti-Islamist” coalition, an unofficial, unacknowledged alliance, while India itself has now become the largest weapons market for the Israeli arms trade. “Not by chance, therefore, has the Indian press just trumpeted the fact that Israeli-made Rafael Spice-2000 “smart bombs” were used by the Indian air force in its strike against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) “terrorists” inside Pakistan. Like many Israeli boasts of hitting similar targets, the Indian adventure into Pakistan might owe more to the imagination than military success. The “300-400 terrorists” supposedly eliminated by the Israeli-manufactured and Israeli-supplied GPS-guided bombs may turn out to be little more than rocks and trees. But there was nothing unreal about the savage ambush of Indian troops in India-held Kashmir on February 14 which the JeM claimed, and which left over 40 Indian soldiers dead. Nor the shooting down of at least one Indian jet,” he wrote in the Independent.

According to the New York Times, it was an inauspicious moment for a military the United States is banking on to help keep an expanding China in check. “An Indian Air Force pilot found himself in a dogfight with a warplane from the Pakistani Air Force, and ended up a prisoner behind enemy lines for a brief time. The pilot made it home in one piece, however bruised and shaken, but the plane, an aging Soviet-era MiG-21, was less lucky. The aerial clash, the first by the South Asian rivals in nearly five decades, was a rare test for the Indian military — and it left observers a bit dumbfounded. While the challenges faced by the India’s armed forces are no secret, its loss of a plane to a country whose military is about half the size and receives a quarter of the funding was still telling. India’s armed forces are in alarming shape. If intense warfare broke out tomorrow, India could supply its troops with only 10 days of ammunition, according to government estimates. And 68 percent of the army’s equipment is so old, it is officially considered “vintage,” it noted in a report.

Pakistan’s JF Thunder 17 shot to prominence after the dogfight. “It may have been a JF-17 jet fighter that shot down an Indian warplane. The Indian side used a MiG-21, designed by the Soviets, that has been in service since the 1960s. Indian pilots call the old jet “the flying coffin” for the accidents it has been involved in. India has in recent years been trying to modernize its military. But it does not have the industry ecosystem. India may have smart engineers, but that does not mean that they can design a combat jet,” a CNN report said. The shares of the Chinese JF-17 fighter jet manufacturer’s sister company surged after a former Pakistani officer’s tweet the planes were used by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to shoot down the Indian military aircraft. PAF Air Marshal (Retired) Shahid Latif had tweeted, “Proud to announce, I was project director for JF-17 Thunder program jointly produced by Pakistan and China during the tenure of General Pervez Musharraf. Today, same jets targeted and shot down Indian Jets which entered Pakistani Airspace.” Less than two hours after the tweet, shares of Shenzhen-listed Sichuan Chengfei Integration Technology (CAC-SCIT), a sister company of JF-17 maker Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC), rose 10 per cent in five minutes – hitting the maximum daily rise allowed on the Chinese stock market, the Chinese media reported.

The recent clashes between Pakistan and India have once again highlighted the Kashmir issue in the world. “Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, the number of cease-fire violations has jumped yet again. Under Modi, Indian commanders have complete freedom to decide when and how to fire. Last year was the worst year for such cross-border firing in 15 years, according to data from the Indo-Pak Conflict Monitor, an independent research initiative, with each side reporting 2,000 or more incidents,” the Washington Post noted.

India’s claim that its warplanes had hit an Islamist group’s training camp and killed a large number of militants has also proved wrong. “High-resolution satellite images show that a religious school appears to be still standing days after India claimed its warplanes had hit the site. The images produced by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, show at least six buildings on the madrasa site on March 4, six days after the airstrike. Until now, no high-resolution satellite images were publicly available. But the images from Planet Labs, which show details as small as 72 cm (28 inches), offer a clearer look at the structures the Indian government said it attacked. The image is virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility. There are no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrasa or other signs of an aerial attack. The images cast further doubt on statements made by the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the raids, early on February 26, had hit all the intended targets at the madrasa site near Jaba village and the town of Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province,” the Reuters said.

Indian opposition parties blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi for politicization of the armed forces. They think he is flaring up the conflict with Pakistan and using the armed forces to win the general election. Experts say Narendra Modi had no other option after defeats in three state elections recently. However, his government’s lies about the attacks on Pakistan, downing of a plane and capture and release of an Indian pilot may prove counterproductive.