Operation Swift Retort: A Victory for Pakistan Air Force

Sara Nazir
Sara Nazir
Operation Swift Resort: A Victory for Pakistan Air Force

On February 27th, 2019, tensions between India and Pakistan reached a new level when Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian fighter jets in response to India’s airstrike on an alleged terrorist training camp in Pakistan. The incident has been widely covered in international news and has raised concerns about the potential for escalation between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. The tensions between Pakistan and India have remained high for decades, with both nations engaged in a series of conflicts and border skirmishes. The events of 27th February 2019 marked another chapter in this long-standing conflict, as Pakistan responded to India’s aggression with a show of force.


The tensions between India and Pakistan date back to the partition of British India in 1947, which resulted in the creation of the Muslim-majority state of Pakistan and the Hindu-majority state of India. The two countries have fought three major wars since then, two of which were over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

The most recent tensions began on February 14th, 2019, when a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir killed 40 Indian security personnel. A Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), claimed responsibility for the attack, and India blamed Pakistan for supporting the group.

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On February 26th, India conducted airstrikes on what it claimed was a JeM training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot region. India’s government said the strikes were “pre-emptive” and aimed at preventing further terrorist attacks on Indian soil. Airborne Early Warning systems supported the well-practiced operation comprising 20 Mirage 2000 planes with Spice 2000 and Crystal Maze missiles. Despite training on the simulator and using pre-programmed instructions on the explosives, they failed to successfully execute their payload to the target.

To reduce the likelihood that the information would be leaked, the Indian authorities gave the strike on Balakot the codename “Operation Bandar.” The term “Bandar” was selected as, according to Hinduism, monkeys are revered. It also relates to a Hindu fable in which Hanuman, a god who resembles a monkey, is said to have stealthily infiltrated Lanka and set it on fire.

Indian government claimed that their air force had succeeded in killing over 300 terrorists whereas Pakistan and several international media outlets who visitied the site rejected the assertion, pointing out that there had been no deaths and injuries and that the warheads had completely missed their designated destination, which was a regular religious school for village kids rather than a terrorist camp. One crow was killed and many priceless pine trees were damaged when an Indian aircraft fell down its load adjacent to a hillside. Prime Minister Imran Khan repeatedly expressed his concern and said that he cared much about trees

Pakistan’s Response

Pakistan’s military responded the next day by shooting down two Indian Air Force fighter jets in the disputed region of Kashmir. Pakistan claimed that one of the planes fell on the Indian side of the border, while the other fell in Pakistani territory. Pakistan’s stance on India on 27th February 2019 was one of defense and retaliation. The Pakistani military responded to India’s airstrikes by launching its own strikes on Indian military installations along the Line of Control (LoC) that separates the Indian and Pakistani-administered parts of Kashmir. Pakistan’s military claimed that its strikes were in self-defense and had avoided civilian casualties.

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The Indian Air Force acknowledged the loss of one of its planes and said a pilot was missing. Pakistan released a video showing a blindfolded man who identified himself as an Indian Air Force pilot, but India criticized the video as a violation of the Geneva Conventions and demanded his safe return. Operation Swift Retort, the PAF’s retaliation strike on February 27, was hailed as a success by Pakistan. A “befitting reply” had been provided to the “enemy’s misadventure,” according to Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, who also claimed that “the PAF’s rapid response was the evidence of our steadfast commitment, capacity, and capabilities in defeating the malicious plans of the opponent.”

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, called for dialogue and warned of the dangers of further escalation. He also authorized the release of the captured Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, on March 1st, 2019, as a “gesture of peace” to promote Pakistan’s soft image in front of international community. Khan and other Pakistani officials called for dialogue with India to resolve the issue, highlighting the need to avoid a catastrophic escalation of tensions. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, stated that “Pakistan has never been, and never will be, a part of any regional or global conflict.”

International Response

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The international community expressed concern about the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan and called for restraint and dialogue. The United States, China, and Russia all called for calm, while the United Nations Security Council held a closed-door meeting to discuss the situation.

The European Union also called for both sides to exercise restraint and pursue diplomatic solutions. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s close ally, China, called for “restraint and cooperation” and offered to mediate between the two countries.


The events of February 27th, 2019, highlighted the precarious nature of the relationship between India and Pakistan and the potential for escalation. The incident raised concerns about the danger of nuclear war between the two countries, which both possess nuclear weapons.

Despite the release of the captured Indian pilot and calls for dialogue from both sides, tensions between India and Pakistan remain high. The dispute over Kashmir remains unresolved and the situation remains volatile, and the international community continues to monitor developments closely.

In conclusion, Pakistan’s stance on India on 27th February 2019 was one of defense, retaliation, and restraint. While Pakistan responded to India’s aggression with force, it also emphasized the importance of avoiding war and called for dialogue to resolve the issue. The PAF’s prompt and forceful response acts as an indicator of its ability to defend national interests and deter future aggressors. The reaction from Pakistan demonstrates the PAF’s quick maneuverability and adaptability to Indian armed troops. Similar to this, the PAF has demonstrated the strategic capability of its armed forces, demonstrating their ability to attack targets outside the range of ground-based troops and launch attacks deep into enemy territory.

The long-standing dispute over Kashmir continues to be a major source of tension between the two countries, and it highlights the need for sustained efforts to resolve the issue through peaceful means. Only through dialogue and diplomacy can India and Pakistan move towards a more peaceful and stable future. Despite a false flag operation at Pulwama, an Indian effort to attack deep into Pakistan failed, and a PAF counterattack on February 27 demonstrated its conventional and technological supremacy, destroying the illusion of Indian military power.

Asia News

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The author is a gold medalist in Strategic Studies from Air University Islamabad and currently teaching as visiting faculty in a university based in Islamabad. She regularly writes on South Asian security and strategic issues.
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