Former Research and Analysis Wing chief AS Dulat has asserted that political parties should not try to gain mileage from the Indian Air Force (IAF) strike on a terror camp in Pakistan's Balakot because it concerns a matter of national security. His comment came a day after BJP chief Amit Shah credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi with eliminating "more than 250 terrorists" in the aerial operation carried out on February 27.
"There should be no politics on issues of national security. The security of this nation is paramount, and it should not be used either for political reasons or national elections. It's that simple," the former intelligence officer told NDTV today. Opposition leaders, including Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, have alleged that the BJP-led central government has unleashed a "propaganda war" to sway voters ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Mr Dulat did not feel the need to speculate on the number of terrorists killed in Balakot either. "The question is not whether the number of terrorists killed is 200, 250 or 300. It's good enough that terrorists have been killed. There's no need to argue about this," he said, adding that people should not be asking for proof of the operation at a time when even the Pakistan authorities have "protested against the violation of their airspace".
Although initial reports had suggested that 300 terrorists were killed in the air strike, Mr Shah became the first leader of the ruling party to go on record about it at a rally in Ahmedabad yesterday. "After Uri, our forces went into Pakistan and carried out surgical strikes... After Pulwama, everyone thought there could be no surgical strikes, so what can happen? But under PM Modi's leadership, the government carried out an air strike after the 13th day and killed more than 250 terrorists," he claimed.
However, IAF chief BS Dhanoa clarified at a press meet today that they cannot arrive at any such estimate. "We don't count human casualties. We count what targets we have hit or did not hit," he said.
Union Minister Smriti Irani had earlier claimed that the valour of an RSS volunteer (in an apparent reference to PM Modi) had resulted in Abhinandan Varthaman - the IAF pilot captured by Pakistani authorities on February 27 - returning to India. Yesterday, BJP leader Manoj Tiwari was criticised by opposition leaders for addressing a political rally in military fatigues.