On the fifth anniversary of ‘Operation Swift Retort’, Pakistan’s armed forces have vowed to respond to any aggression against the people of Pakistan, the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with “full might and without any hesitation”.

On February 27, 2019, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had shot down two Indian planes that had violated Pakistani airspace. One of the Indian pilots was captured by Pakistan, but was later handed over as a gesture of peace.

A press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) early on Tuesday, said: “Feb 27, 2019, marked a significant event in our history, demonstrating the resolve of the people of Pakistan and the professionalism of the armed forces in response to unwarranted aggression from India, motivated by political considerations and electoral concerns.

“Despite desperate Indian attempts to favourably shape the information space, the events of that fateful day showcased absolute operational ascendance of Pakistan’s armed forces over the Indian side,” the ISPR said.

“The steadfastness and competence of Pakistan’s armed forces were acknowledged by military experts and analysts throughout the world, effectively debunking frivolous Indian claims which could not stand to factual scrutiny,” it said.

“The strategic foresight to return the downed pilot in interest of peace, from a position of strength and after having dominated the opposing force decisively, is unanimously hailed, to this day, by the international community as a remarkable gesture of political maturity and superior statecraft,” the ISPR added.

“As a state committed to peace, we shall continue to emphasise the importance of peaceful coexistence with our neighbours. Any aggression against the people of Pakistan, our sovereignty and territorial integrity, will however be responded immediately, with full might and without any hesitation. Every single time,” the ISPR statement concluded.

How it unfolded

The epicentre of the Pakistan-India escalation was an attack in occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama on Feb 14, 2019, in which more than 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed.

The attack, surpassing one in 2016 when 19 soldiers died, saw explosives packed inside a van rip through buses in a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying some 2,500 members of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force.

Two blue buses carrying around 35 people each bore the brunt of the explosion around 20 kilometres from the main city of Srinagar on the main highway towards Jammu.

The next day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country would give a “strong response” to the Pulwama attack.

The “blood of the people is boiling” and forces behind the act of terrorism will be definitely be punished, he was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.

Modi didn’t name Pakistan but went on to say: “If our neighbour, which is totally isolated in the world and thinks it can destabilise India through its tactics and conspiracies, then it is making a huge mistake”.

The situation heated up when Indian military planes violated the Line of Control, intruding from the Muzaffarabad sector. “Pakistan Air Force immediately scrambled” and Indian aircraft went back, the ISPR had said in a statement.

The intrusion in Pakistani airspace by Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft had happened for a second consecutive day, as one of its planes had to release payloads in the Balakot area while being chased away in the early hours of the day. The Pakistan military spokesman had then promised “surprise” for India in response to the IAF aggression.

A day later, the IAF jets entered Pakistani airspace after the PAF strikes on the other side of the LoC from Pakistani airspace for, what the Foreign Office and Army had described as, a demonstration of Pakistan’s “right, will and capability for self-defence”.

The PAF strikes across the LoC were first announced by then FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal via a tweet. “PAF undertook strikes across LoC from Pakistani airspace. The sole purpose of this action was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defence. We do not wish to escalate but are fully prepared if forced into that paradigm,” he had tweeted.

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