Jammu and Kashmir

The Indian Army faced a shocking setback when asked to provide ‘proof’ of its most strategic move.

After the 1971 victory over Pakistan, India for some reason developed a passive attitude toward its Western neighbour. It became more pronounced after the nuclear tests conducted by both India and Pakistan in 1998. This gave Pakistan the window of opportunity to continue with its infamous policy of ‘bleeding India with a thousand cuts,’ through support to cross border terrorism.

Cross-Border Surgical Strike by Indian Army

For the first time, the BJP led government decided to counter Pakistan’s proxy war. It conducted a strike across the border on the night of 28- 29 September 2016. This was in response to the Uri attack by a Pakistan-sponsored terror group on 18 September, resulting in the death of 19 Indian soldiers. Indian special forces attacked terrorist camps across the Line of Control. At multiple points, the forces eliminated all terrorists and their supporters in the area at the time. The success of the mission was announced to the media on the morning of 29 September. The announcement was made by the then DGMO, Lt Gen. Ranbir Singh.

As was to be expected, the Pakistan military put out denial. They stated that only a skirmish had taken place at a couple of places, within the proximity of the LoC. They added that the Pakistan military suffered a loss of two killed and nine soldiers injured. The Pakistani denial was perhaps to keep the situation from escalating. A confirmation by them of the strikes would have put pressure from their public to respond militarily. Pakistan’s unwillingness for that was understandable. What however was quite unacceptable, was the response of some political parties in the opposition in India. They demanded proof of the ‘Surgical Strikes’ from the Indian Army.

The Absurdity of Demanding Proof from Indian Army

It was as absurd as it could get. Which country asks for proof from its own Army? And why this lack of faith? Was it merely to score a point over the ruling dispensation? To deny them any credit in providing the political leadership to pull off such a feat? Even worse, voices started being raised that the Congress too had carried out such strikes earlier, but did not see the need to ‘advertise’ the same. This was being economical with the truth. All earlier cross border interventions by Indian Army were at the behest of the local commanders. They were a response to enemy actions. This strike, however, was different.

Over the last two years, we continually heard opposition parties and some in the veteran community bleating. They said the surgical strike accomplished nothing as Pakistan was still continuing with its support to terrorist groups. It is obvious that one strike was not going to change the Pakistani establishments’ nefarious designs. But it did set a precedent for future action.

A Response for Pulwama Attack

This came in the form of an airstrike on the Jaish- e-Mohammed terror camp at Balakot on the night of 26-27 February 2019, in response to the dastardly suicide attack carried out by this group in Pulwama on 14 February, two weeks earlier. The strike was not in POK but in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which sent another message to Pakistan of another glass ceiling being breached as part of the Indian response options. But sadly, the opposition once again began bleating and asking for proof, despite the Air Chief making a statement on the success of the mission.

A nation’s military fights better when it knows that it has the entire public behind it, but we have a piquant situation in India where the opposition is actually hoping for a military setback to its own armed forces, in order to gain some electoral advantage. This is a sad development and it is but hoped that the coming years will see greater maturity amongst the current set of politicians who are occupying the opposition space in the Lok Sabha. That is the least they can do for their Armed Forces, instead of consistently toeing the line of the enemy.

Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch

Maj. Gen. Dhruv C Katoch is Director, India Foundation, Editor SALUTE Magazine and Secretary-General of Indian War Veterans Association (IWVA).

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