Amid questions, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman breaks silence on Balakot casualty figure
As the debate over number of casualties in IAF air strikes in Pakistan's Balakot rages on in the country, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the government has already confirmed its stand with a statement by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale.
- The Defence Minister said the government has already confirmed its position with a statement by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale.
- Gokhale had last Tuesday said the non-military and pre-emptive strike on a JeM camp in Balakot had killed "very large number" of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders.
- Sitharaman also said the Balakot airstrike was "not a military action" as there was no damage to civilians
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had not given any casualty figure in the airstrike and he had only given a statement, which was the government's "position", Sitharaman said. Gokhale had last Tuesday said the non-military and pre-emptive strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) training camp in Balakot had killed "very large number" of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders.
Sitharaman said the Balakot airstrike was "not a military action" as there was no damage to civilians and also declined to link the airstrike with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
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The Defence Minister’s remarks come amidst the Opposition seeking details of the death toll in the airstrike. The lack of clarity over the Balakot issue is rapidly snowballing into a political issue with opposition leaders, including from the Congress, asking for a statement. Sources said up to 350 terrorists were killed the IAF strikes, BJP president Amit Shah put the toll at 250, some media reports indicated the damage was minimal and opposition leaders clamoured for clarity.
Meanwhile, IAF chief B S Dhanoa on Monday said it is for the government to provide details on the terrorists killed and the Air Force only sees if a target has been hit or not. The bomb damage assessment that is done post a mission only calculates the target that has been hit or not hit, the air chief noted.
ALSO READ: We do not count human casualties, we count targets hit or missed, says IAF
"We can't count how many people have died. That depends on how many people were there," Dhanoa said, adding that a statement on the number of terrorists killed will be made by the government.
(With inputs from PTI)
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