Real Story of Surgical Strike
General Studies 2
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
General Studies 3
- Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
- Security challenges and their management in border areas
On the intervening night of September 28-29, 2016, Indian Army carried out surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), just eleven days after the Uri attack which had claimed the lives of 18 soldiers. The army launched the attack targeting Pakistani terrorists positioned across the Line of Control.
Post the Uri attack, there was an immediate volley of criticism against the army for its inability to protect its camps, for learning no lessons from the past, and for its helplessness in not being able to take the battle to Pakistan.
This ‘surgical strike’ exhibited Indian resolve to cross a mental barrier in the form of ‘Line of Control’, under a nuclear hangover. The necessity was well established as Pakistan continued to launch a proxy war against India by infiltrating terrorists, targeting military camps and civilians, including attacks on families of security forces in Uri and Pathankot.
Politically Speaking – The operation not just surprised Pakistan but, for the first time, political leadership in India acknowledged the trans-LoC operations. The political aim of the surgical strikes was to demonstrate to its own people the government’s will to respond boldly to a terror strike which emanated from Pakistan.
But Pakistan refused to accept that such a military operation took place inside its territory. By denying the existence of surgical strikes, the Pakistan army was able to avoid public pressure which would have forced it to retaliate against India.
What is a Surgical Strike?
A surgical strike is a swift attack undertaken by military on specific targets with the aim to neutralise them while ensuring minimum collateral damage to the surrounding areas and civilians, and a subsequent return to primary positions. It also prevents escalation to a full-blown war.
These attacks can be carried out via air raids, airdropping special operation teams or a ground operation. All three Indian armed forces have their separate special ops teams. It requires detailed and extensive planning to carry out surgical strikes and achieve the objective. External intelligence is vital to carry out these strikes.
What did India achieve?
A “moral” victory: This action besides demonstrating the firm intent of India to use national power gave an important strategic signalling.
Shattered the glass ceiling: India’s ‘Special Forces’ have gained “tremendous confidence” to do similar operations again. It is justifiably proud of its professionalism in planning and conducting the operation, without any fatal casualty to the soldiers.
Militarily: Deter the Pakistan army from sending infiltrators across the LoC, to stop it from fomenting violence in Kashmir, reduce casualties of Indian soldiers and to bring a semblance of peace and calmness to the LoC
The Way Forward:
Over-politicisation of surgical strikes need to stop: There has been too much politicking, with the army needlessly dragged into this controversy. Bringing of the military into the political discourse has the danger of completely vitiating any sensible debate. Surgical strikes were conducted in the interest of national security, not for political mileage.
Capacity building of our defence forces: Indian security forces need strike drones and modern surveillance equipment very urgently.
Over-expectations are not good: One such strike can never force Pakistan Army to mend its ways. India just had to break this myth of Pakistan going nuclear to prove that the space for conventional war exists.
Surgical Strikes are not the answer to terrorism: If one thinks that the country can be freed of terrorism with surgical strikes, it’s a huge mistake. To destroy a terrorist base is not the same as destroying terrorism. Terrorism is an effect and not a cause. It is important to address the cause to eradicate it entirely.
A lasting solution would require a formula that accommodates both Kashmir and Pakistan. Kashmir lies at the heart of the cross-border terrorism problem, together with the support terrorism gets from Pakistan. Relations should not be severed, talks should continue – that’s the right thing to do.
Note: The surgical strikes were the first time the political leadership owned trans-LoC operations and marked a huge shift in the sanctity of the LoC as a de-facto international boundary. During the 1999 Kargil War, when the LoC had been respected as a not-to-be-crossed red line by the previous NDA government even though the Pakistan army had openly breached it.
Connecting the Dots:
- A well thought, coherent, long-term, policy on Kashmir is needed. Examine.
- The surgical strike conducted on the land of Pakistan by India has been a matter of intense debate recently. In the light of global war against terrorims and Indo- Pak relations, what is your opinion on surgical strikes as a weapon to fight terrorism?