On February 14, 2019, a suicide-bomber carried out a terror attack in Pulwama district of Srinagar, summer capital of the Jammu and Kashmir union territory. The convoy consisted of 78 buses carrying approximately 2,500 CRPF members.
As the convoy made its way from Jammu to Srinagar, 42 Indian paramilitary personnel were killed. As far as Indian Army forces in the region were concerned, it was the deadliest attack on them since 1989.
As soon as the CRPF attack occurred, Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a Twitter statement expressing gratitude to our brave security personnel for their sacrifices, also stating that the “sacrifices of our brave security personnel shall not go in vain”.
The Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) accepted responsibility for the attack. Adil Ahmad Dar, a 22-year-old from Kakapora, Pulwama, was identified as the on-ground perpetrator. Despite the fact that Pakistani authorities are known to provide refuge for several commanders of the JeM, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Taliban, they denied any involvement in the operation.
Tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after the attack. India summoned Pakistan’s top envoy and lodged a strong protest. PM Modi asserted that India’s security forces have been given permission to choose the time, place, nature, and intensity of their response to the Pulwama terror attack. “All tears will be avenged… I feel the same fire in my heart that’s raging inside you,” said the prime minister.
Nationwide protests erupted against the dastardly terror attack. Several countries, including Pakistan’s all-weather friend China, condemned the attack. India launched extensive diplomatic efforts to get JeM chief Masood Azhar designated as a global terrorist, which finally became a reality on May 1 that year, when China lifted its technical hold on the proposal introduced by the US, the UK, and France in the resolution 1267 of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
About12 days after the terror attack, in the wee hours of February 26, Indian Air Force jets bombed the JeM camp in Balakot, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.
“In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of today (Feb 26), India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated. This facility at Balakot was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar (alias Ustan Ghouri), the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, Chief of JeM,” informed India’s foreign secretary at the time, in a press conference later that day.
On February 27, a day later, the Indian Air Force prevented a Pakistan Air Force attempt to attack military facilities in Jammu & Kashmir. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, operating a MiG-21 Bison aircraft in the aerial battle, shot down a highly developed PAF F-16. He was captured by the Pakistan Army when his aircraft was destroyed and he ejected after his parachute, subsequently landing in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). Pakistan freed the IAF pilot two days later as a result of international pressure, and the pilot was greeted as a hero when he returned home.
Indian Army troops, including commandos from various Para (Special Forces) units were deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and also carried out raids across the border on multiple targets. All these targets were reported to be launch pads for terrorists to infiltrate into J&K and carry out attacks against military and civilian targets.
PM Modi said that while talking to the Indian Army officials after the Pulwama attack, he realised that they wanted justice for their martyred soldiers, which is why the government gave them the “free hand” to plan and execute surgical strikes. The strikes were hailed by most people across the country and the armed forces, with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh saying that it gave a clear message to the world that “we can kill terrorists on this side as well as by crossing the border if the need arises”.
With India isolating Pakistan after Pulwama, relations between the two countries soured. India imposed a series of sanctions and prohibitions on the country.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari created a stir on Twitter with his announcement that the Indian government was stopping all water-sharing with Pakistan. Punjab and J&K received water that was diverted from the eastern rivers. He said that the Centre intended to construct projects over three rivers that flowed into the hostile neighbour in order to redirect water towards River Yamuna. India and Pakistan share water from the Beas and Sutlej rivers in accordance with the Indus Waters Treaty.
India discontinued the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad in PoK. Beginning in 2005, the bus service ran on both sides of the Line of Control. In addition, India increased the customs levy on imports from Pakistan by 200 percent. This includes petroleum items, fresh produce, cement, and more.
In 2017-18, Pakistan had exported goods worth Rs 3,482.3 crores to India. According to reports, traders, particularly those involved in the sale of fresh fruits, cement, and cotton to India, were harmed because of the high customs charges, which has all but ended Pakistan’s export operations to India.
Pakistan’s ‘Most Favoured Nation’ designation was also revoked by India, in response to the Pulwama attack. This status was granted to Pakistan in 1996, with the intention of ensuring fair trade. About $2 billion worth of commerce took place on a bilateral basis between the two nations.
Pakistani shooters were denied visas by India, preventing them from competing in the ISSF Shooting World Cup in the capital. The Rapid Fire Pistol competitions were expected to be attended by two shooters and a coach from Pakistan. After the attack, India adopted a stern stance, although it wasn’t without criticism. Following this tragedy, the International Olympic Committee halted any Indian bids to host any future competitions.
The Track II initiative that both nations had started is another effort that suffered as a result of the Pulwama attack. Reports in the media stated that youth interactions between Pakistan and India and between other citizens of both countries will be restricted.
The UNSC also expressed support for India and denounced the terrorist assault carried out in Pulwama by the JeM. The UN body branded the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation, proving that India’s efforts for the Security Council Sanctions Committee to identify Azhar as a global terrorist were not in vain.
The reverberations and their aftermath drastically altered India’s politics, diplomacy, and societal narrative on a number of issues that have plagued the country for decades. It brought the two neighbouring nations to the brink of a catastrophic war, while the world observed the situation in dread. As we complete four years of the Pulwama tragedy, the country has come to realise how the Indian Army’s response showed a great level of resilience, and that it holds the capacity of retaliating to such attacks.
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