NEW DELHI: Amidst a raging controversy over the damage inflicted on the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror camp in Balakot, IAF chief B.S. Dhanoa on Monday said his force does not count human casualties but the airstrike had hit the “target”.
“The Indian Air Force is not in a position to clarify the number of casualties. The government will clarify that. We don’t count human casualties. We do not count how many people were dead. We count what targets we have hit or not. We hit our target. The air force doesn’t calculate casualty numbers. The government does that,” he told the media here.
“The target has been clearly amplified by the Foreign Secretary in a statement. If we plan to hit the target, we hit the target. Otherwise why would he (Pakistan Prime Minister) have responded. If we dropped bombs in the jungles why would he respond,” Dhanoa said in his first public remarks on the February 26 air force operation as a consequence of the February 14 Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
There has been a controversy over the number of people killed in the attack on the JeM camp in Balakot. While officially no figures have been given, BJP President Amit Shah claimed in Ahmedabad on Sunday that “more than 250” terrorists were killed in that airstrike.
“After Uri, our forces went into Pakistan and carried out surgical strikes. They avenged the death of our soldiers. After Pulwama, everyone thought there could be no surgical strikes, what will happen? But under (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s leadership, the government carried out an air strike after the 13th day and killed more than 250 terrorists,” Amit Shah said in Gujarati, at the public meeting in Ahmedabad.
Union Minister S.S. Ahluwalia had said that the Balakot strike was to convey a message that India has the capacity to strike deep inside enemy lines and was not intended to inflict any human casualties.
Ahluwalia had accused the media of giving “unconfirmed figures” and said:
“Has Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the 300 figure (of casualty), or did any spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party say so? Did Amit Shah give any figure even once? The air strikes were designed to demonstrate that we can enter your home, despite your (Pakistan’s) elaborate security arrangements, and can strike at will at terror locations that we have properly identified,” said Ahluwalia, the Darjeeling MP, in Siliguri on Friday.
“We did not want any human casualty,” the minister said in Bengali, as per reports published in Hindustan Times.
Dhanoa said the bomb damage assessment was a different aspect and it was difficult for the IAF to confirm casualties. How many people were inside the targets cannot be said.
He also defended the use of the vintage MiG-21 Bison in the aerial engagement with a large package of intruding Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighters on the Line of Control (LoC).
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“One is a planned operation in which you plan and carry out. But when an adversary does a strike on you, every available aircraft goes in, irrespective of which aircraft it is. All aircraft are capable of fighting the enemy.
“The Mig-21 Bison is a capable aircraft, it has been upgraded, it has better radar, air-to air missiles and better weapons system,” he said.
Refusing to get drawn into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment that the outcome would have been different had Rafale jets joined the service, Dhanoa said that after the upgradation, the Bison is 3.5 generation with a range of missiles and avionics.
He said it has all the systems like chaffs, flares and other features.
The IAF chief also said that the first Rafale should come to India by September.
With agency inputs