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National

WA
Waqar Ahmed
October 23, 2017

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The imaginary Indian surgical strike

The imaginary Indian surgical strike

Last year in September, the Indian Army had claimed launching a surgical strike in held Kashmir and killing scores of militants. Soon after, the Pakistan Army took the media there but they could not find any evidence of a strike. The BBC website reported in its headline “India’s surgical strike in Kashmir: Truth or illusion?” There was nothing to see as nothing had been done by the Indian forces. Since then, there has been much pressure on Indian forces to prove if there was a strike or not. 

So what they have done is to come out with a fictitious account of the strike that has been published in Nitin A. Gokhale’s book “Securing India the Modi Way: Pathankot, Surgical Strikes and More”. The account, probably fine-tuned by some Bollywood copywriter, makes hilarious reading. 

Consider this: The writer claims, “The success of Myanmar operations had planted the seed of thought about a surgical strike in Pakistan in everyone’s mind.” (The Myanmar government like the Pakistan government is still searching where the so-called strike took place).

“As one week passed after the Uri attack, the debates tapered off; people seemed resigned to live with the bitter fact that the situation in J&K and on the LoC would continue to be volatile with the Indian army unable to take any deterrent steps. Little did anyone know that India was about to unleash unprecedented and audacious cross-border strikes…..From here onward, teams led by Col K and Col H were on their own. All of it depended on their skills, daring, ingenuity, and above all, determination to succeed in whether they would accomplish the task assigned to them. There was no looking back now.” (Vow, the use of adjectives would envy any English fiction writer)

“The week of the Uri attack was also a testing time for the Prime Minister’s leadership. Modi, adept at judging the public mood, was aware that people expected him to walk the talk in acting tough against India’s implacable enemy…. Recall his aides: Amidst all the criticism, the Prime Minister continued to be unruffled. The PM went through with his daily routine and pre-scheduled appointments and programmes without any change, but made sure he had all possible options presented to him before giving the final go ahead (for a punitive strike against Pakistan)…..  But he was not about to be rushed into any hasty decision….. Once the initial briefing was over, Modi had a couple of questions on other possible options….” (Other prime ministers, especially president of one superpower, could hire such slick image-building team)

“Barring one minor injury, Operation X had gone off with clockwork precision. Complete surprise was achieved, resulting in the higher fatalities in the camps-cum-launch pads of the Pakistanis.” (What? At the hottest Line of Control, there were no forces to challenge the intrusion, no guard at the so-called camp, the militants had probably only kitchen knives to fight off the attackers!)  

“We can’t give you exact figures. No one can, but what we saw with our eyes in those moments, tells us that we would have accounted for at least 70–75 fellows combined, both Col K and H tell me. Later that day, radio chatter from across the LoC reportedly confirmed at least 80 fatalities in the camps that were hit by Indian Special Forces.” (While it is difficult to hide even five dead in this age of information, where have the bodies of 80 dead militants gone? Why the fairly independent and critical mainstream Pakistani media could not locate them one year after the strike?)

Another Indian analyst Arka Biswas wrote this several months ago: “On the number of militants killed, while the Indian government and army did not disclose any figure officially, media reports claimed the death of 38. This number too remains insignificant. It is also unlikely that Indian army commandos, conducting the surgical strikes, managed to either secure or destroy all arms and ammunition present at those terror launch-pads.” He added: “While surgical strikes fail as a tool of sub-conventional deterrence, they meet the objective of pacifying Indian public anger.” He quotes former Indian National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon, then as Foreign Secretary of India, stressing that “we should…be seen to retaliate.”

Biswas adds: “That is precisely what the Narendra Modi government did in September 2016. While media reports note that Indian army has conducted similar strikes in the past as well, it was the first time following the strikes of September 2016 that the Indian government publicly claimed to have sanctioned them. This certainly helped New Delhi pacify Indian public anger which was at a high following the terror attack at the Indian army headquarter in Uri on 18 September, 2016.” 

While the surgical strike certainly did not happen, Biswas concludes: “Illustrating the success of surgical strikes in pacifying Indian public anger, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ruling at the Centre, won assembly elections held soon thereafter in most states with huge margins, including the most populous Uttar Pradesh. The success of surgical strikes in avenging the Uri terror attack was used in the election campaign of the BJP and political pundits credited BJP’s victory to surgical strikes, among other achievements of the Modi-led government in New Delhi.” Perhaps this was the surgical strike all about it.

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