On Feb 27, 2020, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is commemorating the first anniversary of ‘Operation Swift Retort’ during which the PAF managed to shoot down two Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft while an MI-17 helicopter was lost due to fratricide. The brief aerial encounter between two nuclear adversaries not only challenged the myth of India’s conventional superiority and re-established the credibility of conventional deterrence but it also asserted the salience of nuclear deterrence in maintaining strategic stability in the region. The statements emanating from the Indian side after the Balakot encounter indicate that India has not yet absorbed the true meaning of a nuclear revolution, which makes war as an unthinkable option between the two nuclear-armed adversaries as it continues to explore space for a conventional conflict without fully realizing its implications for the region as well as global security. Unfolding ‘Swift Retort’ on Feb 14, 2019 a young local Kashmiri militant attacked a military convoy and blew himself up resulting in the killing of more than 40 personnel of the Indian security forces. India blamed Pakistan and threatened a punitive action. Twelve days later on Feb 26, 2019, the IAF launched aerial surgical strike close to a place known as ‘Balakot’ targeting a religious seminary that India described as a militant camp, and claimed killing more than 300 terrorists but without sharing any supporting evidence that could otherwise corroborate the Indian claims. In response to the Indian action, PAF launched a counter strike on Feb 27, 2019,intended primarily to demonstrate Pakistan’s resolve and carefully crafted to avoid casualties on ground. During the short aerial encounter that followed the PAF managed to shoot down two IAF aircraft and captured one of the pilots of a Mig-21that fell inside Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The pilot was later released as a goodwill gesture and to avoid further escalation. The unexpected but effective riposte by the PAF unnerved the Indian side, which resulted in shooting down of one of their own helicopters in a friendly fire killing all six military personnel onboard. The entire episode caused a serious blow to India’s military image since it claims to be a regional power preparing to fight a ‘Two Front War’ against China and Pakistan. The Conflicting Narrative after the Balakot strike, India claimed that its air force had managed to kill more than 300 terrorists while Pakistan and several international observers negated theclaim as there were no casualties and the bombs had clearly missed their intended target. India also claimed that one of its Mig-21s had shot down Pakistan’s F-16 aircraft which was also refuted by an influential Foreign Policy magazine based on the interviews with the US Department of Defence (DoD) officials who verified that no F-16 was missing from the Pakistani inventory. These claims and counter claims exposed India’s story of lies and deceit. On one hand, the surgical strike was touted as a great success and declared as a ‘new norm’, while on the other side, India’s senior leadership blamed the failure on the non-availability of aircraft like Rafale, which according to them would have changed the outcome of Balakot crisis. India is already operating state-of-the-art SU-30 and Mirage 2000 aircraft that are capable of delivering payload with precision, but the IAF could not utilize these to their full potential. Whether Rafale will make any significant difference to IAF’s strike potential -is a matter that can only be assessed in a future India-Pakistan crisis. India’s Surgical Strikes and Pakistan’s FSD India’s surgical strike of Feb 2019 was the first time since 1971 that its air force was employed in an offensive strike across the international border. This led some of the commentators to question the credibility of Pakistan’s Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD) posture by terming the Indian military action as an attempt to call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff as successful. Pakistan’s FSD was never aimed to deter a surgical strike by the adversary, but is intended to deter a war, ranging between a limited to an all-out military conflict. It would be unrealistic to expect that in response to a ground or an air-launched surgical strike Pakistan would resort to the threat of nuclear retribution. Doing so would have been disproportional and therefore not credible. In addition to the nuclear options, Pakistan has credible conventional responses designed to meet different contingencies as was evident from the counter aerial surgical strike which is part of what is now known as the policy of ‘Quid Pro Quo Plus.’ This has not only reinforced the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence but has also helped restore confidence in the conventional deterrence against an adversary that has significant conventional advantage. Conclusion.Both India and Pakistan continue to remain embroiled in a cycle of stability-instability with India introducing destabilizing technologies and war-fighting concepts, and Pakistan responding by taking measures that could ensure the credibility of its overall deterrence posture. After experiencing humiliation at the hands of PAF in Feb 2019, India has so far remained cautious, but the induction of new aircraft and anti-missile systems, together with growing militant nationalism amongst India’s decision-making elite, could once again push the region towards instability. The author is director at Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies looking at nuclear and strategic issues.