On September 18, 2016, Pakistan trained terrorists attacked an army camp of the Indian army in Uri killing 18 soldiers. Six days later, while addressing a public rally in Kozhikode on the sidelines of the BJP National Council meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “Terrorists should hear out clearly that India will never forget the Uri attack…. I want to tell the leadership of Pakistan that the sacrifice of our 18 jawans will not go in vain.” This wasn’t an empty threat because just four days later, commandos of Indian army’s elite Special Forces crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and hit multiple targets in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The targets of the surgical strike were launch pads near the LoC that were created jointly by the ISI and terrorist groups for accommodating terrorists prior to their infiltration into Kashmir. The surgical strikes took the Pakistan army by complete surprise and the Special Forces were able to destroy a large number of terrorist launch pads and inflict heavy casualties on the unsuspecting terrorists and Pakistan army soldiers present there. The crowning glory was that neither Pakistani soldiers nor terrorists could cause any harm to the commandos of the Special Forces who carried out the surgical strikes. Though Pakistan has denied that any surgical strikes took place but locals residing near the launch pads targeted have confirmed that the Pakistan army and terrorists had used tractors and jeeps to hastily remove bodies and evacuated the injured.
It is not easy for any government to take the decision of hitting terrorist sanctuaries on the other side of the International Border or LoC as even a small slip-up can spell complete disaster and endanger the lives of the raiding force personnel as well cause immense embarrassment at the national level. It goes to the credit of Prime Minister Modi that he approved a surgical strike against NSCN (K) militant camps on the Myanmar side of the international boundary in 2015 and followed it up by giving a ‘go ahead’ to another surgical strike inside PaK in 2016. This gave Indian army the opportunity to display its consummate professionalism and its Special Forces army lived up to the nation’s expectations.
With two successful surgical strikes in as many years, every Indian is rightly proud of the country’s armed forces and the morale of the men in uniform has skyrocketed. In the aftermath of the surgical strikes the Pakistan army organised a special trip for media persons to some places near the LoC so that they could see for themselves that everything was normal and there was no telltale sign of any surgical strikes there. Release of surgical strike videos recorded in real-time while the strikes were in progress, the GPS coordinates showing the precise locations of the targets are clearly visible. This has severely embarrassed the Pakistan army as it revealed that media persons were intentionally taken to the wrong places just to mislead them into believing that nothing had happened!
The biggest take-away from the surgical strikes is that even after India admitted that its Special Forces had crossed the LoC and hit several terrorists launch pads, no country criticised New Delhi’s punitive strike. Compare this with the strong international condemnation of the 1999 LoC transgression in Kargil even after Pakistan claimed that it was not involved and the intruders were “Kashmiri fighters.” The best part was that since Pakistan consistently denies the existence of terrorist infrastructure on its soil, Islamabad couldn’t internationalise the surgical strikes as an aggressive action that needed to be strongly condemned as it could trigger a nuclear response from Pakistan.
A defence analyst has aptly summed up Pakistan’s sorry predicament by saying, “For Islamabad it was a Catch-22 situation; acceptance of the surgical strike and playing the victim card could get it a little sympathy and possibly evoke some criticism of India’s action. But the moment it did so Islamabad would invite international criticism for having terror infrastructure on its soil. So, in order to diplomatically embarrass India, Pakistan needed to accept existence of terrorist launch pads on its soil; but the moment it did so it would become a sponsor of terrorism and would have to face diplomatic flak!”
So it’s time to celebrate.
Writer is Kashmir-based journalist and political commentator and can be reached at [email protected]