New Delhi: One year ago, on the intervening night of September 28-29, the special commandos of Indian Army crossed the Line of Control (LoC) to hit the targets to the south of Pir Panjal range in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The next day, the Army announced having had conducted surgical strike in PoK.
An India Today report says, the targets had been identified on the basis of Indian Army’s knowledge about training camps and terror launch pads across the LoC. Two commanding officers of the Indian Army led two separate teams of para commandos (Special Forces). They crossed the LoC independent of each other but with the same purpose.
The surgical strike followed one of the bloodiest terror strikes on army camps in the country. On September 19, four Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists – well trained and supremely guided – entered Uri Army camp and attacked administrative block killing 19 soldiers including six of the Bihar battalion who were to be posted at the LoC in less than a week’s time.
The Uri attack had led to widespread anger against the terror outfits operating from Pakistan. The Narendra Modi government was under pressure for walking the talk.
The then Army Chief General Dalbir Singh and Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda held a few rounds of meetings with the political leadership including PM Modi, the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. The Army got a go-ahead nod.
The two teams of special commandos destroyed training camps and terror launch pads in PoK inflicting heavy casualties – the number of terror launch pads destroyed and terrorists killed are not officially known. Various reports put the number of casualties between 35 and 80. Indian Army teams returned without any casualty.
ONE YEAR LATER
Speaking at a book release function in New Delhi on Monday, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said the surgical strike was successful and it sent a message. “The strike was a message we wanted to communicate to them and they have understood what we mean…that things could follow up, if required,” General Rawat said.
However, General Rawat also said that “terrorists will keep coming because the (terror) camps are operational there (across the LoC).”
More than 450 ceasefire violations have happened along the LoC since the surgical strike in PoK. This means that the 2003-ceasefire agreement no longer exists.
There has been spike in terror attacks. Indian Army has lost nearly 70 soldiers in Kashmir since the surgical strike. Before surgical strike, 38 soldiers had died in 2016 in Kashmir. On the other hand, the Army has killed nearly 180 terrorists since surgical strike compared to about 100 in the preceding one year.
SURGICAL STRIKE A MAJOR DISRUPTOR
For decades, India-Pakistan relation has followed a copybook diplomacy. After every major terror strike, India would blame Pakistanis establishment for terror attack, scale down diplomatic relation, call Pakistan’s High Commissioner to lodge strong protest and raise the issue at international fora.
A similar response was expected by Pakistan after the Uri attack. But, under pressure after the killing of 19 soldiers – mostly in their sleep – in their camp, and having conducted a cross-border operation in Myanmar in 2015, the Modi government and the Indian Army prepared for something bigger.
The surgical strike stunned Pakistan as before it could understand what happened, the Indian Army’s special commandos had come back to their side of the LoC by the daybreak on September 29. Pakistan was under pressure to respond but that could have meant serious escalation at LoC and possibly along the border.
SANCTITY OF LoC UNDER QUESTION
Ever since the first ceasefire between India and Pakistan, the Line of Control (LoC) has functioned practically as international border. Several experts have suggested that the LoC should be converted into permanent border between India and Pakistan, and accept division of Jammu and Kashmir to bring peace in the Valley.
Its sanctity was maintained during 1965 war and also during 1971 war. Even during the 1999 Kargil War, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had made it clear to the Indian Army that the soldiers must not cross the LoC even though Pakistan Army had violated the 1948-agreement.
With surgical strike of 2016, the Narendra Modi government made a bold statement that the LoC will not be the divide line between India and Pakistan. PM Modi had already made references to people living in PoK including Gilgit and Baltistan.
The RSS and BJP have been strong votaries of negotiation for taking back PoK. Though this does not seem a possibility in some time to come, the surgical strike has opened the scope for future negotiations.
ISOLATION OF PAKISTAN
The Modi government, deviating from the past practice, publicly owned up crossing the LoC and carrying out the surgical strike in PoK. Smarting under the assault, Pakistan, on the other hand, issued a nervous denial. The denial was aimed at handling domestic pressure on the Army and the Nawaz Sharif government.
As India asserted its right to act in self-defence, the world maintained a distance from the entire episode. Having had conducted a similar stealth operation in Pakistan, the US was not expected to criticise India. Other countries including China did not back Pakistan.
One year later, when India exposed Pakistan’s doublespeak on terrorism at the UNGA, China, though unhappy with India, admitted that its “all-weather friend” has encouraged terrorism.
MORALE OF INDIAN ARMY
The two surgical strikes in two years – Myanmar and PoK, (now three with the second one in Myanmar this week) with the full backing of the central government, the Indian Army’s morale is high. Read how Opposition reacted
The surgical strike in PoK saw a surge in the respect for Indian Army. The astute planning of the surgical strike and professional execution of the plan enhance the positive public opinion about the Indian Army. This, in turn, served as morale booster of the soldiers.
Experts have said that the surgical strikes had been planned even before but they were limited to border posts as the previous governments usually denied the permission to cross the LoC into what is called behind the enemy lines.
This time, the government approved of the cross-LoC operation plan prepared by the Northern Command. The Indian Army has since looked more confident in handling situations. The Doklam standoff which lasted for over 70 days is a testimony to Indian Army’s high morale.
New details emerging from China suggests that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had mobilised more than 3,500 troops at Doklam. The earlier reports put the number of troops at around 300-400. The Indian Army had deployed around 350 soldiers. But, the Army held its ground despite heavy build up on the other side. The Chinese pressure tactic failed in the face of high morale of the Indian soldiers and it had a lot to do with the surgical strike.