Pakistan has announced to celebrate ‘Surprise Day’ on February 27 as a tribute to the retaliatory attack by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) after India’s Balakot airstrike, The Express Tribune has reported.
On Feb 27, 2019, the PAF carried out Operation Swift Retort and shot down two Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter aircraft and dropped bombs within the compounds of Indian military facilities in occupied Kashmir – as a warning to the country’s belligerent neighbour.
The Pakistani military had lived up to its promise to ‘surprise’ India in wake of any misadventure, saying that ‘uncalled-for aggression’ from the Indian military ‘would not go unpunished’.
The operation also resulted in the capture of an Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, after his Mig-21 was shot down. The pilot was later handed over to Indian authorities as ‘a goodwill gesture’.
The rare aerial engagement significantly raised the stakes in the perilous standoff came a day after Delhi claimed its aircraft had launched an airstrike on what it called the “biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Muhammad” militant group inside Pakistan – a claim debunked by Islamabad.
“The sole purpose of this [PAF] action was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defence. We do not wish to escalate, but we’re fully prepared if forced into that paradigm,” the Foreign Office had said in a statement.
The then director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Asif Ghafoor, said Indian jets were shot down after PAF planes earlier struck targets across the Line of Control (LoC) in a show of strength.
Afterwards, he said, the two Indian warplanes crossed the LoC into Pakistani airspace. They were engaged by PAF jets and downed. One fell into Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), while the other crashed on the other side of the LoC, he had said.
“In response to PAF strikes this morning, as released by MoFA, IAF [Indian Air Force] crossed [the] LoC,” he said. “[The] PAF shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJK while [the] other fell inside IOK. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on the ground.”