Balakot Redux: On Bipin Rawat's revelation of terrorist camp

Evidently, the strike on terrorists in Pakistan did not have a lasting impact

Published - September 25, 2019 12:02 am IST

Army chief Bipin Rawat’s revelation at the Officers Training Academy in Chennai that the terrorist camp in Balakot has begun functioning again is a deeply worrying development on several counts. It was barely seven months ago, in February, that the Air Force bombed Balakot and claimed to have taken out about 300 terrorists being trained there. That action was sold as being a pre-emptive one, and at the same time as a punitive response for the Pulwama attack which killed 40 CRPF personnel earlier that month. Though the Army Chief paraded this information on resumption of Balakot camp’s activities as yet more conclusive proof that the air force strike had put that terrorist camp out of business for the intervening months, it really comes across as an action that has not had any of the intended effects the planners had hoped for, not one. Indeed, it seems to have had the opposite effect. Evidently, the Jaish-e-Mohammed, though a banned entity, continues to operate with impunity. This underlines the reality that replenishing the numbers of terrorists who are taken out of reckoning is not a challenge for Pakistan’s establishment. That things have been turned around in less than seven months opens the door to more questions about the much touted efficacy of the strike as well. Certainly, the development does not increase the Indian people’s confidence that the Balakot strike has somehow frightened terrorists and their patrons in Pakistan into demoralised disarray. Far from it. Gen. Rawat said that there were 500 terrorists ready to infiltrate into Kashmir, and that to counter those attempts the Army had “thickened” its presence along the Line of Control. This is possibly in addition to the troops that were sent into Jammu and Kashmir to strengthen the security grid ahead of the moves on Article 370 and Article 35A, after which the State has been in a lockdown. The longer the clampdown lasts, the longer the soldiers remain deployed on trigger fingers, the more the accretion of belligerence continues on either side of the LoC.

The Army chief has chosen to provide this information ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bilateral meeting with American President Donald Trump, ahead of the Prime Minister’s address to the United Nations General Assembly. The hope is once all the grandstanding is done, saner counsel will prevail and steps taken to guide both Kashmir and the bilateral relations with Pakistan to a space where they can be better managed bilaterally. Unfortunately, with about a month to go for elections in Haryana and Maharashtra, this may not turn out to be the case.

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