Sur­gi­cal Strikes Pub­lic Trans­parency v. Na­tional Se­cu­rity ............

Pub­lic Trans­parency v. Na­tional Se­cu­rity

Libertatem Magazine - - Content - By Saak­shi Sharma

On 30th Septem­ber, 2016, most lead­ing In­dian na­tional dailies proudly pro­claimed that the In­dian Army had suc­cess­fully car­ried out sur­gi­cal strikes in Pak­istan in the dead of the night and man­aged to at­tack and de­stroy seven ter­ror­ist base camps while also killing all the ter­ror­ist present in those camps. This move by the In­dian Army and Gov­ern­ment was seen as re­tal­i­a­tion to the Uri at­tacks in which four heav­ily armed ter­ror­ists at­tacked an In­dian Army brigade head­quar­ters in Uri, near the Line of Con­trol in the wee hours of the morn­ing. They were al­leged to have lobbed sev­en­teen grenades in un­der three min­utes fol­lowed by a gun bat­tle that ul­ti­mately re­sulted in the death of 18 army per­son­nel, as re­ported by the news­pa­pers.

The Uri in­ci­dent caused mass up­roar in the nation and sent the pub­lic into a frenzy bay­ing for the blood of the per­pe­tra­tors of the Uri at­tacks. With the gov­ern­ment fac­ing de­mands for ac­tion ev­ery sin­gle day, the plan to at­tack the ter­ror­ist camps was for­mu­lated based on ac­tion­able in­tel­li­gence re­ceived by the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties. Thus, on 29th Septem­ber, the In­dian Army crossed the Line of Con­trol, where, ac­cord­ing to the in­tel­li­gence, the ter­ror­ists were meet­ing for fi­nal brief­ings be­fore cross­ing the LOC to en­ter into In­dia to carry out at­tacks. The op­er­a­tion in­volved heavy ar­tillery fir­ing, use of hand grenades and 84mm rocket launch­ers to de­stroy the base camps af­ter which the In­dian Army swiftly crossed the LOC again to en­ter back into In­dia.

On the 30th of Septem­ber 2016 when the news hit the papers, the nation was en­gulfed by a wave of pa­tri­o­tism with ev­ery In­dian feel­ing proud of the at­tack and show­er­ing praises on the Modi Gov­ern­ment and the In­dian Army for their bold steps. The at­tacks sent a strong mes­sage to the world: In­dia is no longer a soft state and shall re­spond in equal mea­sure to any at­tacks on its soil. The ac­tion was lauded by even the op­po­si­tion par­ties and even the other na­tions of the world were un­able to say any­thing against the step taken by In­dia.

Soon how­ever re­ports started flow­ing in that Pak­istan had com­pletely de­nied the oc­cur­rence of any such at­tacks and had re­fused to ac­knowl­edge that such strikes had ever taken place. They de­manded proof of such an op­er­a­tion from In­dia, proof that ac­cord­ing to the In­dian gov­ern­ment was con­sid­ered sen­si­tive ma­te­rial and not some­thing that could be made avail­able to the pub­lic. The op­po­si­tion par­ties in In­dia saw this as an op­por­tu­nity to fur­ther their in­ter­ests by un­der­min­ing the act of the gov­ern­ment and hence started de­mand­ing proof al­beit phras­ing it as want­ing to sat­isfy Pak­istan’s au­thor­i­ties while in re­al­ity want­ing to make the Modi gov­ern­ment look bad since they knew that such proof would not be re­leased. The me­dia houses in In­dia started run­ning sen­sa­tional sto­ries and de­bates with some peo­ple now ques­tion­ing the truth of the at­tacks due to the gov­ern­ment’s re­luc­tance to re­lease proof. This fac­tion of the peo­ple be­lieved that if such strikes had in­deed been con­ducted then the gov­ern­ment should have no prob­lem in re­leas­ing proof back­ing their claims. The age old de­bate of pub­lic trans­parency ver­sus na­tional se­crets was once again brought to the fore.

Since the birth of democ­racy there has al­ways been one bone of con­tention be­tween the pub­lic and the

gov­ern­ment and that is the re­lease of in­for­ma­tion by the gov­ern­ment that it con­sid­ers to be sen­si­tive or a na­tional se­cret. On one hand is the right of the com­mon man to know about each and ev­ery ac­tion or de­ci­sion of his gov­ern­ment, while on the other hand is the duty of the gov­ern­ment is to main­tain the safety and in­tegrity of the nation and this may some­times call for keep­ing cer­tain in­for­ma­tion pri­vate so as to not com­pro­mise the se­cu­rity of the State. It is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to strike a bal­ance be­tween the two and till date there hasn’t been a com­plete res­o­lu­tion of this con­flict.

In the present case, the gov­ern­ment, as well as a ma­jor­ity of the cit­i­zens of In­dia, has said that the video record­ings and live footage of the sur­gi­cal strikes can­not be re­leased as they will lead to the rev­e­la­tion of the strate­gies used by the army and hence ren­der such mis­sions ob­so­lete in the fu­ture. Also, it will lead to the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the men per­son­ally in­volved in the at­tacks which might put a tar­get on their backs. It is af­ter all the duty of the nation to pro­tect its army men as well. Also, no coun­try would like to di­vulge in­for­ma­tion about its mil­i­tary tac­tics, weapons as well as points of en­try into the en­emy ter­ri­tory. The re­lease of such data is like a sui­cide mis­sion, like giv­ing the en­emy cheat codes to win the next war. The strate­gic ad­van­tage and in­tel­li­gence gath­ered through such op­er­a­tions shall be ren­dered use­less and will cause ir­repara­ble dam­age to the ef­forts of the gov­ern­ment and the army to elim­i­nate all threats to the se­cu­rity of the State of In­dia since the en­emy state shall take all nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions to avoid the re­oc­cur­rence of such an event.

There is also the ar­gu­ment that the fact that Pak­istan is re­fut­ing the oc­cur­rence of such at­tacks should come as no sur­prise since no sov­er­eign will ever agree to the fact that an­other coun­try en­tered upon its ter­ri­tory and car­ried out such op­er­a­tions with­out them ever find­ing out, no mat­ter what the truth is. Such peo­ple con­sider this a tac­tic be­ing em­ployed by Pak­istan to get hold of the mil­i­tary strate­gies and loop­holes ex­ploited by the In­dian Army so as to fur­ther for­tify their bor­ders and pre­vent such at­tacks in the fu­ture. It is also seen as an at­tack on the cred­i­bil­ity of the In­dian claims since they are fully aware that the In­dian gov­ern­ment will refuse to re­lease such data and hence they are hid­ing be­hind this re­luc­tance to deny the oc­cur­rence of th­ese strikes. Peo­ple have also time and again brought up the fact that a sim­i­lar op­er­a­tion was con­ducted by the United States of Amer­ica to cap­ture and kill Osama Bin Laden on the Pak­istan soil and no proof of the same was pro­vided in the name of State se­crets. Since no­body ques­tioned the va­lid­ity or oc­cur­rence of those strikes, the same should be fol­lowed in the cur­rent case.

Com­ing now to the other side, there is a group of peo­ple that be­lieves that since the oc­cur­rence of the strikes has been called into ques­tion, the gov­ern­ment ought to be held ac­count­able to the pub­lic and should make pub­lic all such in­for­ma­tion that does not en­dan­ger na­tional se­cu­rity. Ar­gu­ments have been made that the lo­ca­tion of the ter­ror­ist camps that have been struck are not a se­cret to the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment and hence their rev­e­la­tion will not dis­close any se­crets. In the same way the num­ber of ca­su­al­ties at each of the seven camps is also ob­vi­ously known to the Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties and hence there is no harm in re­leas­ing such in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic. Th­ese peo­ple be­lieve that the footage should be edited to the ex­tent nec­es­sary to keep all sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion pri­vate but at least some sem­blance of be­liev­able proof should be re­leased for if noth­ing else then to nip cyn­i­cism against the at­tacks in the bud.

Some peo­ple, es­pe­cially the op­po­si­tion par­ties in the In­dian po­lit­i­cal sce­nario are us­ing the gov­ern­ment’s re­luc­tance to raise ques­tion on the strikes. One view that has been taken is that maybe the tar­gets hit were not par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant from a mil­i­tary stand­point and hence re­leas­ing their de­tails might take away from the ben­e­fit that ac­crues to the rul­ing party from th­ese strikes in the next elec­tions. An­other view is that even if not for the sat­is­fac­tion of the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment, the In­dian gov­ern­ment is re­spon­si­ble to its own cit­i­zens for in­for­ma­tion on its ac­tions. Ev­ery cit­i­zen of a nation is en­ti­tled to be made aware of the ac­tions of their gov­ern­ment and the for­eign pol­icy be­ing pur­sued by them and hence if noth­ing else the de­mand for the footage by the In­dia cit­i­zens should be hon­ored in view of the gov­ern­ment’s fun­da­men­tal duty to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about its ac­tions to the cit­i­zens.

What­ever view one may take re­gard­ing the sur­gi­cal strikes, the fact that such sur­gi­cal strikes were con­ducted marks a par­a­digm shift in the way In­dia deals with ter­ror threats. Con­sid­ered a soft state up un­til now that did not do much af­ter a ter­ror­ist at­tack, th­ese strikes have shown that In­dia is no longer shy of tak­ing bold steps to en­sure that its sovereignty and safety do not come un­der at­tack, and will no longer take such threats ly­ing, but is pre­pared to take the req­ui­site mil­i­tary ac­tion to avenge as well as pre­vent any more threats to the nation and its cit­i­zens and is some­thing that ev­ery In­dian should be proud of.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.