New Delhi: The motive behind Balakot airstrike was to convey a strong message to Pakistan that there will be a cost to pay for terror attacks and the message was conveyed, former Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said, speaking for the first time about the airstrike, after his retirement.

However, the biggest lesson one could learn from the limited period engagement, he said, was that technology matters.

“What about the responsibility of people who were to get this technology and kept negotiating for nearly 10 years to get the MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft)? What would have happened in the same engagement had Wing Commander Abhinandan (Varthaman) been flying Rafale aircraft instead of MiG 21- bison?” the former Air Chief asked, as he was speaking during a discussion on ‘Understanding The Message of Balakot’ on the second day of the Military Literature Festival organised by the Punjab government and the Chandigarh administration.

‘Stupid Mistakes’

On February 26, Indian warplanes attacked some terror camps in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It was a pre-emptive strike which caused the deaths of a large number of terrorists who were under training in the terror camp. On February 27, Pakistan retaliated and shot down the MiG-21 that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was flying.

“On our side…(there were) stupid mistake for which remedial measures have been taken and people responsible will be punished,” Dhanoa said without sharing any details about what he was referring to. “We could not impose significant costs on PAF (Pakistan Air Force) on 27 of February (when the Pakistan Air Force retaliated a day after the Balakot strike).”

There were only two questions: When and Where?

Dhanoa said that after the Pulwama attack in February in which 40 people were killed, the Pakistani establishment had feared that there would be retaliation. “There were only two questions — when and where the retaliation will take place,” he said. A decision was taken to strike a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot area as the terror organisation was behind the Pulwama attack.”The government and political will was very clear to tell the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Pakistani establishment that such attacks would come at a cost and no matter where you are, be it PoK or Pakistan, we will get you and that is the message of Balakot,” Dhanoa said.

Dhanoa, who retired on September 30, asserted that there was a paradigm shift in the way the Indian government responds to terrorist attacks involving mass casualties. He pointed out that there was no military response from the Indian state after the 1993 bomb blast in Mumbai and the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

(With PTI Inputs)