Surgical Strikes & Thereafter

It does appear that the initial euphoria of the ‘Surgical Strikes’ by Indian Army in POK has settled down and once again the pseudo intellectuals, politicians with misplaced priorities and peaceniks are in circulation and doing what they do best – establishment bashing and nation bashing. There are some who are questioning the very veracity of the strikes and trying to give an impression as if the whole exercise was a farce. There are others who believe that it is no big deal if Indian forces struck a few kilometres inside POK since nothing much has changed. Then there is the last lot, led by some Congress leaders, AAP leader in chief and some media biggies, who are trying to be a bit smarter. On one hand they congratulate the government for the bold action and on the other demand more details, including video footage, be released to counter Pakistan government’s and some international media’s doubts on the intensity and extent of damages caused by the strikes. Frankly most of them are either missing the woods for the trees or are just trying to puncture some holes in the government narrative to embarrass it instead of showing sincere solidarity with the government on this critical issue.

The surgical strikes were never designed to bring Pakistan to its knees or cause heavy damages. They were not meant to escalate the conflict to a war like scenario. They were not expected to change Pakistan’s mindset overnight. The aim of the strikes, as planned, was to drive home a few hard truths to the Pakistan’s establishment and to convey a message to the international community in general. In addition there was a very clear message for the nation and our armed forces too. These could be summed up as below:

  • To Pakistan the strikes were meant to convey that the days of ‘Strategic restraint’ by Indian government were over and taking India for granted would be at its own peril. It was also made clear that while local retaliatory actions would continue as hitherto before on intrusions along LOC, India will not hesitate to hit strategic targets inside POK or even Pakistan’s territory with a view to strike at strongholds of terrorists that have found refuge on Pakistan’s soil.
  • To the world the strikes were meant to send a message that somewhere India’s patience had reached a saturation level and henceforth India will exercise its option of a military response on selected acts of terror perpetuated by Pakistan backed terror outfits.
  • The government also wanted to impress on its citizens that the nation had suffered enough because of its only talks based approach despite Pakistan’s consistent acts of terror against India over the years. The armed forces of the nation too have been clearly told that they must be ready for more aggressive and meaningful military response as lack of political leadership, will or decision making was a thing of past.

If this be so then it really does not matter if the number of militants and terrorists killed in the strikes was one score or many scores. It does not matter if the targets hit were totally annihilated or only partially damaged. It does not matter if Pakistan acknowledges the damages that may have actually occurred or uses a decoy strategy to underplay the whole offensive action to assuage its own citizens. It will be futile to expect Pakistan’s military to openly acknowledge that Indian forces did penetrate their defences and managed to strike and return since that would expose their incompetence. After all there is no doubt that the Pakistan Army was under a state of high alert along the LOC for many days prior to the surgical strikes. If some of our own, be it media, politicians or the practitioners of ‘talks only’ approach, presume that the whole gamut of surgical strikes was a hoax perpetuated by the government with connivance of the Army, then such Indian nationals have to be isolated and their antecedents verified in the interest of the nation. It is obvious they have a hidden agenda which needs to be brought out in the open since without a doubt they do not mean well by the nation.

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The moot point here is that the action on part of India was not a spontaneous reaction to a routine incident along the LOC. This was a well planned, deliberate and multi point operation carried out successfully deep inside the territory held by Pakistan despite their forces being in a state of high alert. Without a doubt the Indian forces will have adequate proof to show for their claims. Such proof would be required by them when they report back for debriefing and assessment after completion of the whole operation by their own superiors apart from what was delivered by drones in real time. Expecting Army to share all these details with media and Pakistan or world community at large is being very naive since these will be for internal consumption only. As far as Indian Army is concerned, the task has been done and it should have nothing further to say nor would it like to gloat on its reported success openly. They would be happy and satisfied within and that is what matters for soldiers. If any gloating has to be done, that is for the government of the day to decide how far and to what extent it wants to go in that direction. Suffice it to say that no responsible government will ever go overboard.

It will be foolish to assume that ‘Surgical Strikes’ is what the doctor ordered to solve our issues with Pakistan sponsored terrorism. It will be equally naive to assume that these strikes have no role to play. It has to be viewed as one of the many measures that may go in to finding the right solution(s) to this complicated problem. A nation’s strength and resolve to fight terrorism is not measured by its ability to either offer the other cheek or look the other way every time it is attacked. That will be counted as a weakness and terrorists will always exploit such a situation. Therefore selectively a nation has to hit back harder than what it gets. That qualifies as a measure of a nation’s will to fight terror. Israel without a doubt is a case in point. In the fight against terror, it is important to make your opponent think not twice, but many times, before he decides to hit you.

As far as media is concerned its viewership or readership are dependent on fresh details and information that they can muster on such critical issues. Therefore it is understandable to see their increased appetite for more information about the whole operation. If they cannot get the same from concerned authorities, part of the media will as is their want, come out with such details from their ever available reliable sources which in most cases will just be speculation and result in two plus two adding to five. As long as their TRPs show an increase they will not mind such mathematical errors and perhaps even justify the same. Expecting the whole of Indian media to be responsible and practice restraint on matters of national security will possibly be an exercise in futility. So one may just have to live with an anchor replicating a ‘War Room’ in his studio and explaining to his viewers firsthand account of how the surgical strikes were executed and giving his own assessment based on his reliable sources. The fact that his military knowledge would probably fit on the point of a needle with room to spare will not bother him from expounding his military strategies and theories. Surely one cannot expect the government or military establishment to come and refute such nonsense or engage in a slinging match with the anchor. At the best it is for the government to issue guidelines in this regard as it may deem fit to rein in the media.

In the aftermath of the military action there has been a lot of debate whether India has totally shunned the option of talks with Pakistan. It is surprising when one sees such inane comments in media by supposedly responsible people. Invariably they are either politicians opposed to the government of the day or self righteous arm chair pseudo intellectuals. In today’s world can any nation rely only on military power to resolve its problems with neighbours and totally disregard its international obligations? The answer to this question is obvious and this is what Sherlock Homes would have said “Elementary my dear Watson, talks can never be dispensed with; at the best they may be curtailed or put on hold for a period of time to drive home a point or as part of a diplomatic strategy. A nation may also review its approach so as to ensure it enters in to a dialogue from a position of strength after calling the other party’s bluff.” This possibly sums up the current Indian approach where controlled aggression, both militarily and diplomatically, is being brought to bear on Pakistan to ensure that India resumes dialogue from a position of strength at an opportune time.

Next is the aspect of ‘people to people contact’ that in the last few days has manifested itself in the debate over whether or not Bollywood should deport Pakistan’s artist who work in Indian entertainment industry. Frankly it is not just about actors or artists since they are but a miniscule part of the effort that the whole nation has to garner if Pakistan has to be isolated meaningfully in international arena. What is important is can we as a nation initiate such small efforts in all walks of life and all parts of the nation so that the combined movement becomes a force to reckon with and strengthens the hands of our government to talk tough with Pakistan. The need of the hour is for the whole country to act concertedly and rise above vested interests in favour of the nation. Such a stance is likely to send right signals across the border where one hopes that people of Pakistan will start questioning their own establishment on the misplaced policies that their government follows. If today some of them can condemn a terror attack in France or America or in their own country, why cannot they do the same if it happens in India? After all terror has no nationality or boundaries. Once that happens, it will be a turning point in the relations between the two nations and meaningful people to people contact would then become a given. When it comes to  national security, national honour and national interests, it is not only the soldier in uniform or  government of the day that are responsible, the whole nation has to play its part, however small it may be.

Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.

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