NEW DELHI: Responding to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s promise of releasing a captured Indian pilot on Friday as a peace gesture towards India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, not known for incoherence, used words couched in riddles that could be interpreted as belligerent or benign.
Speaking at an event to felicitate scientists, Mr Modi said: “Aap toh laboratories me zindagi guzaarne vale log hain, aur aapme pehle ‘pilot project’ karne ki parampara hoti hai. Pilot project karne ke baad scalability hoti hai. Abhi abhi ek pilot project pura ho gaya. Abhi real karna hai, pehle toh practice thi.” (You people spend your lives in laboratories. It is a custom to first make a ‘pilot project’. Scalability is done after that. Just now one pilot project has been completed. Now we have to make it real, earlier it was just practice.)
The comments came within minutes of Mr Khan’s announcement in parliament on Thursday that the Indian Air Force (IAR) pilot would be freed the next day.
In an unusual move later, representatives of the three services addressed the media where they spoke of preparedness to counter any future eventuality. But the flavour of the statements suggested that they were talking of being prepared should there be any provocation from Pakistan, which they claimed there had been earlier.
Representatives of three services talk about preparedness to counter any eventuality
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF), according to the statement, had used F-16 warplane to target Indian military installations. The focus seemed to be to claim that F16 planes had allegedly cross the Line of Control to target Indian military installations. For “proof” a piece of an apparent missile was shown, which the Indian media said could only have been used by an F16.
Air Vice-Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor, explaining what happened before the Indian plane went down, said PAF planes were intercepted and in the dogfight an F-16 aircraft was shot down by an IAF MiG Bison. The IAF lost one MiG.
No one asked for evidence, and none was offered.
Major General Bahal said Pakistan resorted to indiscriminate firing on Feb 26 and was “befittingly retaliated”. Given the high level of preparedness, Pakistan’s designs were foiled. “We are in a heightened state of alert,” he said.
Navy Admiral Gujral said the navy remained poised in all three dimensions “to defeat Pakistan’s provocations”.
Asked about Pakistan pushing for de-escalation, Air Vice-Marshal Kapoor said it was Pakistan which had escalated and “we are prepared”. He said: “Whatever we set out to achieve that has been achieved.”
Asked about the proposed release of the air force pilot by Pakistan, he said it was in consonance with Geneva conventions and further comments would come after his release. He said it was up to the political leadership to decide on releasing the “evidence of Balakot strike success”.
Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2019