India Air Chief Says Government Counts Casualties After Strikes

(Bloomberg) -- India’s air force doesn’t count casualties, the government does, Air Chief B.S. Dhanoa said on Monday, as opposition leaders call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for proof of success on recent strikes against Pakistan.

“We hit our target. The air force doesn’t calculate casualty numbers, the government does that,” Dhanoa said at a briefing in the southern city of Coimbatore. “IAF is not in a position to clarify the number of casualties. The government will clarify that. We don’t count human casualties, we count what targets we have hit or not.”

Questions from opposition political leaders are increasing after Modi’s main ally in the ruling party, Amit Shah, at a campaign rally on Sunday said “more than 250” terrorists were killed in recent air strikes in Pakistan. The government hasn’t provided an official tally and its critics allege the ruling party is using the attacks to bolster support before elections that could be called any day now.

“After Pulwama, everyone thought there could be no surgical strikes, what will happen? But under Modi’s leadership, the government carried out an air strike after the 13th day and killed more than 250 terrorists,” NDTV reported, citing Shah.

India on Feb. 26 said its jets launched airstrikes to destroy insurgent bases inside Pakistan. The target was a camp run by the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 suicide car bombing in Pulwama, Kashmir, that killed 40 members of India’s security forces.

Modi on Sunday hit out at his critics for calling for proof. “When the country needed to speak in one voice, 21 opposition parties gathered in Delhi to adopt a resolution condemning us. They are demanding proof from the armed forces for their act of bravery,” the Press Trust of India reported, citing Modi at an election rally.

Following the air chief’s clarification, Modi’s party must explain where it got the casualty numbers it’s citing, Manish Tewari, the main opposition Congress party’s spokesman, said on Twitter.

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