Cover Story/Bharat Strikes Back: The Pressure Must Continue
By going beyond the rhetoric, with ‘Surgical Strikes’ the Narendra Modi Government has injected a new element to which Pakistan is not used to
Nitin A Gokhale
On September 18, when India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh were flying together back from Srinagar late that night after taking stock of the aftermath of the attack, on an administrative camp near the Army’s Uri brigade that killed 18 Indian Army soldiers, the mood in the plane was sombre. India had not lost so many soldiers together in one attack in the past decade. The nation was downcast. It seemed India had no answers to Pakistan’s continuing proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir.
Mid-way through the flight Parrikar, who is about to complete two years as Defence Minister in November, asked
the Army Chief to give him at least three options that would involve demonstrable action against the perpetrators of the attack early next morning. Parrikar wanted the options in his hand before he went to attend the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting the next day.
By conducting successful surgical strikes on terrorists launching pads in POJK, Indian Army has proved its capability. Congratulations Indian Army. Keeping aside our integral differences, the entire country is in support of the India Government in any such situation -Dr Manmohan Vaidya, RSS Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh
The Party stands with the Government in its actions to protect our country’s security and to deal with the menace of terrorism from across the border -Sonia Gandhi, Congress President
The strikes indicate the rise of a ‘new India’, where the Government doesn’t get cowed by nefarious designs of terrorism -Amit Shah, BJP President
The Military Operation (MO) Directorate worked through the night and presented the possibilities that existed to launch operations along and across the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K. Armed with the options, the defence minister went for the CCS meeting. The CCS, taking inputs from various agencies—R&AW, Intelligence Bureau, the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO)—and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval decided to order preparations for a retaliatory strike.
Deepak Zazia from Poonch (LoC)
The CCS, India’s highest decision making body on matters of strategic affairs, was determined to go off the usual beaten track of ‘we-condemn-the heinous-attack’ that has been India’s standard response to any terrorist attack in the past two decades. The Prime Minister had already promised that the sacrifice of the 18 soldiers would not go in vain. So preparations began in right earnest.
Indian Film Producers association bans Pakistani artistes
The Indian Motion Picture Producers’ association has passed a resolution to ban Pakistani artiste and technicians from working in Indian films. This comes amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following the Uri attack and India’s response through ‘Surgical Strikes’.
All of India’s top decision-makers on security affairs had a series of meetings between 18 and 25 September to decide on multiple steps to hurt Pakistan. Revisiting the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), boycotting the SAARC summit in Islamabad, describing Pakistan as Ivy League of Terrorism in the United Nations, was all part of the well thought out, coordinated strategy to corner Pakistan. Even as these steps were being initiated, preparations for a punitive strike on terrorist camps located in the Pak-Occupied Kashmir, not very far from the LoC, were underway. NTRO and R&AW were tasked to get accurate assessment of the camps and launch pads, the strength of terrorists present there along with Pakistani Army regulars. The Army Northern Command also had local intelligence through their Humint (human intelligence) about what was happening across the LoC. Initial reports spoke about heightened defences in these camps. Some of the 30-odd camps that the Pakistan Army maintains and nurtures along the LoC were also emptied immediately after the Uri attack, fearing retaliation from the Indian Army.
After 10 days had passed without any visible action or even any overt preparation for an attack across the LoC, the guard seemed to lower perceptibly in the camps. Pakistan was lulled into thinking India’s response on expected lines: Every other measure but a military strike. Little did they know that targets had been selected, assessments done and a crack force assembled to hit camps and Pakistani Army posts in an arch between Poonch and Kupwara.
On September 28, the CCS was presented with plan. The basic aim was to hit the terrorist infrastructure in PoJK and send a message that India will not allow the attacks to go unpunished. It was immediately approved. Defence Minister Parrikar and NSA Ajit Doval were tasked by the Prime Minister to oversee and coordinate the operation. The MO Operations Room (mistakenly described by many as the War Room) became an intense hub of activity between September 28 noon and early morning of September 29. By noon on September 28, the strike teams had been staged forward from three directions. The chosen targets were across the areas under the jurisdiction of 19 Division (in Uri), 28 Division (in Kupwara) and 25 Division (in Rajouri). The H-Hour was half past midnight on September 28. A couple of hours before the H-Hour, the Kupwara division opened small arms and mortar fire on posts opposite its area of operation. This was a diversionary tactic. As Pakistani forces began to react to the firing, Special Forces teams began to slowly cross the LoC into PoJK. A couple of teams slipped out between the Beloni and Nangi Tekri
battalion areas in Poonch sector south of the Pir Panjal and across the Tutmari Gali in the Nowgam sector.
By 2 am, the teams were on target. Five launch pads and two Pakistani Army posts—which were co-located with the launch pads—were destroyed and all occupants killed. The Indian Army has refused to put a number to the fatal casualties among the terrorists so far. As the DGMO said in the press statement, the operation is over and India has no further plans at the moment.
The entire episode has changed the India-Pakistan dynamics on the LoC. A decisive move by the political
leadership to declare to the world the action the Army took has brought in an element of unpredictability that Pakistan is not used to. So far, Pakistan could always predict an Indian response to any terrorist attack. Condemnation, shock, presentation of dossiers would complete the Indian action. But by going beyond the rhetoric, the Narendra Modi government has injected a new element to which Pakistan is not used to. In Islamabad, the reaction have therefore been extremely muted or confused. While the Army has denied any surgical strike by India, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Defence Minister have condemned the attack and said any such future attack will get a befitting reply! Clearly it is advantageous for India at this moment. Now the government must keep up the pressure on all fronts—economic, political, and diplomatic—besides retaining the option to use a military response whenever it feels Pakistan needs to be punished. The decisiveness shown by PM Modi and his colleagues needs to continue even in the face of grave provocations that Pakistan may unleash in coming weeks.
(The writer is National Security Analyst, Media Trainer and founder of BharatShakti.in)