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The Curious Case Of ‘Attack’ On UN Vehicle In LoC – OpEd

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In fictional novels, a clue or even the answer to a mysterious occurrence often lies so well concealed within the copious narrative itself that it deftly escapes the reader’s notice. But this is also true in real life when it comes to Inter Services Public Relations [ISPR], which besides being Pakistan army’s public relations wing, also doubles up as the country’s principal media agency. In the aftermath of the February 26, 2019, airstrikes carried out by Indian Air Force [IAF] against a terrorist facility in Balakot area in Pakistan occupied Kashmir [PoK], while refuting India’s claim of having destroyed the terrorist facility at this location, Director General [DG] ISPR denied the same. To add more credibility to his claim, he promised to take media persons to the site so that they could themselves ascertain facts on ground and thereby ably expose India’s ‘bluff’. 

DGISPR told media persons that though he wanted to clear the air on this issue by taking them to the site immediately, but this wasn’t feasible due to the prevailing adverse weather conditions. He assured journalists that this trip would take place the moment weather conditions improved. But even though the skies cleared up a couple of days later, yet it still took ISPR more than a month to conduct this much hyped visit. This inexplicable delay in itself provided a clue that something was amiss, and so it was not at surprising that the visiting media persons didn’t seeing any signs of physical damage [except for a crater and some fallen trees, which DGISPR alleged had been caused by the air strike]. 

But the BBC, in its report [‘Balakot air strike: Pakistan shows off disputed site on eve of India election’, Published on 10 April 2019], mentions “While the media were allowed to take interviews, they were told to keep them short and it was clear that the tour was being restricted.” [Emphasis added]. So, it finally emerges that both clues and answers to the burning question of whether the IAF airstrike did destroy a terrorist facility [as claimed by New Delhi] or was it an abysmal failure [as averred by Pakistan army] lies in the DGISPR’s puerile narrative about bad weather hindering media visit to the attack site for more than a month. 

Whereas Pakistan army is remarkably quick when it comes to rebutting any news that adversely effects its professional image, but in this particular case, it took journalists to Balakot after 43 days. The only plausible reason for Pakistan army’s uncharacteristic tardiness in exposing New Delhi’s false claims could be an inescapable need to buy time to enable restoration of the attack site to its pre- airstrike condition by carrying out necessary reconstruction work to conceal the damage caused by the IAF attack. So, this nearly one-and-a-half-month delay is a clear indication that the destruction caused at Balakot must have been quite extensive. This is exactly what an Indian External Affairs Ministry official implied when he said “The fact that media was taken on a conducted tour to the site only after a month and a half after the incident speaks for itself”!

 The next such incident happened the very next day after the Balakot air strike, when DGISPR announced that Pakistan Air Force [PAF] had shot down two Indian fighters without suffering any losses. He went on to claim that out of the three IAF pilots of these downed aircrafts who had bailed out over Pakistan territory, one had been taken into custody while a search was on for the other two. Subsequently, DGISPR announced that another IAF pilot had been caught and being in an injured condition, was undergoing treatment at a combined military hospital [CMH]. But just hours later DGISPR created a mystery of sorts when he backtracked by saying that Pakistan army had only one IAF pilot [Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman] in its custody.

Whereas DGISPR denied that PAF suffered any losses and scoffed at New Delhi’s claim that Wg Cdr Abhinandan had shot down a PAF F16 fighter, the clue of whether New Delhi’s claim was true or false again lay in his own narrative of the incident. Because, even though DGISPR simply avoided any subsequent mention about the pilot under treatment at a CMH, his silence could not counter the fact that a second pilot had also ejected on that day and was undergoing treatment in a military hospital. So, if this pilot wasn’t from IAF, then he obviously belonged to PAF and this would only have happened if his plane was shot down- unless of course, Pakistan army wants us to believe Gen Pervez Musharraf’s infamous remark made to a CIA officer about how “in Pakistan, things fall out of the sky all the time”!

The circumstances surrounding the alleged targeting of a UN vehicle near the Line of Control [LoC] on Friday is yet another mystery. In a series of tweets, DGISPR wrote, Indian troops deliberately targeted a United Nations vehicle with 2 Military Observers on board… It must be noted that the UN vehicles are clearly recognisable even from long distances due to their distinct make and type and clearly visible markings...” He went on say that “Such illegal and unlawful acts against all established international norms, signify mal-intent of Indian Army to target not only innocent civilians residing along the Line of Control but UN Peacekeepers as well” [Emphasis added] and adding that “This act only goes to show Indian Army’s complete disregard to principles enshrined in the UN Charter,” went onto exceed his brief by opining that“It is indeed a new low for Indian Army” [Emphasis added]. 

But being fair to DGISPR, one has to accept that he has rightly mentioned that “UN vehicles are clearly recognisable even from long distances due to their distinct make and type and clearly visible markings,” [Emphasis added]and as such it’s inconceivable that the highly disciplined Indian army would commit such an irresponsible and self-incriminating act and so this incident become all the more enigmatic. But by mentioning that “Indian troops deliberately targeted a United Nations vehicle…,” of how this act goes to “signify mal-intent of Indian Army to target…UN Peacekeepers” and Indian Army’s complete disregard to principles enshrined in the UN Charter [Emphasis added],the DGISPR’s tweet does confirm the building up of a motivated narrative and this in turn provides a credible clue that is further reinforced by the recent ‘relapse’ of Islamabad’s incurable “false flag operation” obsession.

Pakistan army’s proclivity in staging incidents in order to malign the Indian army is so well known to all concerned parties that they seldom take its allegations at face value. So much so, that in the current case, even the UN is treading very cautiously on DGISPR’s assertion that Indian army had “deliberately targeted a UN vehicle,” lest it be misled by this patently unconvincing insinuation. Perhaps that’s why deputy spokesman to UN Secretary General, Farhan Haq has taken care to disregard ISPR’s allegation of the UN vehicle being hit by bullets by clarifying that “At this stage, we’re simply aware that a vehicle was hit by an unidentified object [Emphasis added] and saying that “The [UN] Mission is currently investigating the incident.” 

Most importantly, by mentioning that “We are aware of what both sides have been saying,” [Emphasis added], the UN spokesperson has made it amply clear that despite the DGISPR’s exhaustive narrative, the UN is not willing to swallow his unsubstantiated allegations against Indian army, hook-line and sinker, because given Pakistan army’s dubious past record, this could well turn out be a “false flag operation” orchestrated by Pakistan army.

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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