In­dian Army Launches Sur­gi­cal Strikes along the Line of Con­trol

Pak­istan con­sid­ers the ji­hadi tanz­ims as their strate­gic as­sets to be used suit­ably both in peace and in war. This suits China too which is open­ing up a China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) to Gwadar Port via PoK for which large amounts of funds are be


Pak­istan con­sid­ers the ji­hadi tanz­ims as their strate­gic as­sets to be used suit­ably both in peace and in war.

Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd)

The ca­su­al­ties suf­fered by the Army were so heavy that it caught the at­ten­tion of the en­tire In­dian na­tion and an at­mos­phere got cre­ated for a sav­age re­sponse to teach our per­verse and re­cal­ci­trant neigh­bour a les­son

SINCE 1989 PAK­ISTAN HAS waged an un­re­lent­ing asym­met­ric war on In­dia which we call “proxy war”. We have been deal­ing with the ter­ror­ists sent by ji­hadi tanz­ims like the Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mo­hammed who have their home and hearth in Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (PoK). They are funded, equipped, abet­ted, trained, lo­gis­ti­cally sus­tained and launched by Pak­istan’s In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) and the Pak army across the line of con­trol (LoC) or the in­ter­na­tional bor­der based on the sit­u­a­tion that favours them to achieve the op­ti­mum re­sults in destruc­tion of hu­man life and in­fra­struc­ture in In­dia. This is in keep­ing with the strat­egy of “bleed­ing In­dia through a thou­sand cuts”. Their tar­gets cur­rently are mostly se­cu­rity forces per­son­nel (In­dian Army, J&K Po­lice and Cen­tral Po­lice Forces de­ployed in J&K). By so do­ing their in­ten­tion is to keep the In­dian Army en­gaged on the borders which is an im­por­tant over­all aim both for Pak­istan and for China and hence the lat­ter is sup­port­ing them in many ways. They con­sider these ji­hadi tanz­ims as their strate­gic as­sets to be used suit­ably both in peace and in war. This suits China too which is open­ing up a China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) to Gwadar Port via PoK for which large amounts of funds are be­ing in­vested by China to the tune of $46 bil­lion.

The Federal Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, an Amer­i­can Gov­ern­ment in­tel­li­gence agency, in its first ever open ac­knowl­edge­ment in 2011 in US Court said that Pak­istan’s In­terSer­vices In­tel­li­gence spon­sors ter­ror­ism in Kash­mir and it over­sees ter­ror­ist separatist groups in Kash­mir.

The In­dian Army de­ployed along the LoC has a well co­or­di­nated counter-ter­ror grid to neu­tralise the in­fil­trated ter­ror­ists who cross the LoC whereas cur­rently in the hin­ter­land the other se­cu­rity agen­cies, mainly J&K Po­lice and Cen­tral Po­lice Forces, have been manag­ing the in­sur­gency within Kash­mir which has now waned to an in­signif­i­cant level and they are now deal­ing with a restive pop­u­la­tion whose pen­chant for cre­at­ing un­rest is phe­nom­e­nal. Cur­rently it is this is­sue that has to be tack­led po­lit­i­cally in Jammu and Kash­mir.

The ter­ror­ists who in­fil­trate into J&K have a short life­span. In 1993-94 when I was com­mand­ing an ar­moured bri­gade in Jammu, the in­sur­gency and ter­ror­ism was at its height and the life­span of a je­hadi var­ied from a few days to a few weeks. So many ques­tions used to be asked as to why do they un­der­take such mis­sions when they know that they will not be able to re­turn to their home­land? The an­swer is quite sim­ple. They are re­cruited from among the poor­est sec­tions of Pak­istan’s so­ci­ety and are promised a con­sid­er­able amount of funds for their fam­i­lies. They are also mo­ti­vated to think that as a je­hadi if they die they will achieve Heaven (Jan­nat). When they come for a mis­sion they are given drugs and in­jec­tions of mor­phine and thus even if they are shot, but not in a vi­tal place in the body, they con­tinue to fight till the last breath. The in­sur­gency and ter­ror­ism in J&K have caused wide­spread destruc­tion and loss of life. Thou­sands of lo­cals and se­cu­rity forces per­son­nel have per­ished in this fight.

The URI At­tack

On Septem­ber 18, 2016, a ter­ror­ist group of four ter­ror­ists struck a bat­tal­ion ad­min­is­tra­tive base in Uri Sec­tor. Some 18 sol­diers of the In­dian Army were mar­tyred and many oth­ers in­jured in the ter­ror­ist at­tack in the early hours of Sun­day morn­ing. All four mil­i­tants were killed within a few hours of the com­mence­ment of the at­tack, though comb­ing op­er­a­tions to clear the en­tire area took longer. How­ever, the ca­su­al­ties suf­fered by the Army (in­clud­ing in­jured per­son­nel) were so heavy that it caught the at­ten­tion of the en­tire In­dian na­tion and an at­mos­phere got cre­ated, es­pe­cially by the tele­vi­sion me­dia, for a sav­age re­sponse to teach our per­verse and re­cal­ci­trant neigh­bour a les­son. This in­ci­den­tally was the fifth ma­jor at­tack by Pak­istan-based ter­ror mod­ules, as­sisted by their army and the ISI in re­cent times. These at­tacks in­clude Gur­daspur (Dina Na­gar) on July 27, 2015, Pathankot IAF Base on Jan­uary 2, 2016, Pam­pore at­tack on June 25, 2016, Poonch at­tack on Septem­ber 11, 2016, and Uri at­tack on Septem­ber 18, 2016.

After the Uri at­tack the as­ser­tion by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi that those be­hind the ter­ror at­tack in Uri in Kash­mir “will not go un­pun­ished” was fol­lowed by the his speech at Kozhikode on Septem­ber 24, 2016, the venue of a three-day Na­tional Coun­cil Meet­ing of the BJP, where he said that In­di­ans would never for­get the grue­some act of killing 18 sol­diers in Uri. Thus a gen­eral feel­ing seemed to be cre­ated that the na­tion was veer­ing to­wards a pos­si­ble mil­i­tary ac­tion.

Sur­gi­cal Strikes by In­dian Army

On the night of Septem­ber 28/29 In­dia’s Spe­cial Forces (SF), gen­er­ally known as Para Com­man­does, car­ried out a fourhour-long op­er­a­tion against the ter­ror­ists who had con­cen­trated across the LC in PoK. Their aim was to ob­vi­ously in­fil­trate into Jammu and Kash­mir and into the hin- ter­land of the coun­try to carry out ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties.

Lt Gen­eral Ran­bir Singh, the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tions (DGMO), in a news con­fer­ence on Septem­ber 29, after the strikes said: “Based on very cred­i­ble and spe­cific in­for­ma­tion which we re­ceived yesterday that some ter­ror­ist teams had po­si­tioned them­selves at launch pads along the LoC with an aim to carry out in­fil­tra­tion and ter­ror­ist strikes in Jammu & Kash­mir and in var­i­ous other met­ros in our coun­try, the In­dian Army con­ducted sur­gi­cal strikes last night at these launch pads,” The Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­istry spokesman Vikas Swarup was also present.

The ac­tual op­er­a­tion was car­ried out by teams of 4 and 9 Para SF (Spe­cial Forces), who are un­der Head­quar­ters North­ern Com­mand. The op­er­a­tion was pos­si­bly con­ducted in both 15 and 16 Core Zones, across a frontage of about 200 km at five dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions. The op­er­a­tion was car­ried out along the LoC which meant that the pen­e­tra­tion across the LoC was not more than 1 to 3 km in or­der to de­stroy/ neu­tralise the ter­ror­ists who were wait­ing at the launch pads for in­fil­tra­tion across the LoC to the In­dian side. “Sur­prise”, a car­di­nal prin­ci­ple in such op­er­a­tions was fully achieved. This is ev­i­dent from the fact that while one soldier had se­ri­ous in­jury due to a mine ex­plo­sion, all SF per­son­nel re­turned to base. Thus also prov­ing the skill, pro­fes­sion­al­ism, train­ing and mo­ti­va­tion of our ju­nior lead­ers and sol­diers of SF. About 40 ter­ror­ists were neu­tralised.

UAVs and other in­tel­li­gence and sur­veil­lance means were em­ployed which gave spe­cific and cred­i­ble in­puts about the pres­ence of ter­ror­ists at the launch pads which were kept un­der con­stant sur­veil­lance for few days prior to the ac­tual op­er­a­tion. The Para SF teams were di­rected to com­mence the move after last light on Septem­ber 28. It seems that a to­tal of about 200 per­son­nel of the SF were em­ployed. They were prob­a­bly tasked to in­fil­trate from our army lo­cal­i­ties/ posts along the LoC, through known gaps based on good in­for­ma­tion about the ter­rain and Pak­istan Army de­ploy­ment. Key plan­ning pa­ram­e­ters were:

Full sur­prise; swift and sur­gi­cal con­duct.

Nil or min­i­mum casualty to own troops. No troops or casualty, if any, to be left be­hind.

Max­i­mum at­tri­tion.

The pa­ram­e­ters were achieved fully.

Pak­istan – A State in Con­stant De­nial

Pak­istan, how­ever, dis­missed In­dia’s claim as “fab­ri­ca­tion of truth”. They said that it is a “quest” by In­dia to cre­ate me­dia hype by re­brand­ing cross-bor­der fire as sur­gi­cal strike. Pak­istan is a state in con­stant de­nial be­cause this sta­tus of de­nial has been wit­nessed after ev­ery ma­jor ter­ror­ist at­tack

against In­dia. After 2008 Mum­bai at­tacks which killed 164 civil­ians and in­jured 308, Pak­istan dis­owned any con­nec­tion to the op­er­a­tion. How­ever Aj­mal Kasab, one of the ten ter­ror­ists who was cap­tured alive, dis­closed that the at­tack­ers were mem­bers of Lashkar-e-Toiba, among oth­ers. The Gov­ern­ment of In­dia said that the at­tack­ers came from Pak­istan, and their con­trollers were in Pak­istan. On Jan­uary 7, 2009, Pak­istan con­firmed the sole sur­viv­ing per­pe­tra­tor of the at­tacks was a Pak­istani ci­ti­zen. On April 9, 2015, the fore­most ring­leader of the at­tacks, Zak­iur Rehman Lakhvi, was granted bail against surety bond of 2,00,000 ($2,000) in Pak­istan.

After Ac­tion Po­lit­i­cal Re­sponse

The mil­i­tary ac­tion, now be­ing called counter-ter­ror­ist ac­tion, came against the back­ground of the mount­ing pres­sure on the Modi Gov­ern­ment to walk its “tough-on­ter­ror“talk. The public up­roar for re­tal­i­a­tion was vis­i­ble in the en­tire coun­try. Hence the BJP and the gov­ern­ment have rea­sons to cel­e­brate. The re­sponse won the ap­proval and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the en­tire po­lit­i­cal class, with even op­po­nents who ac­cused Modi Gov­ern­ment for be­ing `hawk­ish’ ap­plaud­ing the feat of Army and pledg­ing sup­port: a de­vel­op­ment which could lead to set­ting of a new bench­mark for re­sponse to Pak­istan­backed ter­ror­ism.

Diplo­matic Re­sponse

As of April 2016, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has made 40 for­eign trips. These ex­cur­sions in­clude state vis­its and sum­mits on five con­ti­nents, in­clud­ing the vis­its to the United States to at­tend the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly, fol­low­ing his Neigh­bour­hood First and Act East poli­cies.

Dur­ing the year 2015 saw Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi un­der­took a whirl­wind tour of 26 coun­tries. In 2016, Modi com­pleted the three-na­tion tour of Bel­gium, United States and Saudi Ara­bia that be­gan March 30 and con­cluded on April 3, 2016. On May 22-23, 2016, Modi vis­ited Tehran.

The Prime Min­is­ter was crit­i­cised by op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties within the coun­try for spend­ing more time abroad, how­ever the pos­i­tive im­pact of such vis­its is only as­cer­tained dur­ing cri­sis and the sur­gi­cal strikes was one such cri­sis which saw the world pow­ers in­clud­ing the Is­lamic world sup­port­ing In­dia.

Our diplo­matic suc­cess can be summed up in the words of Am­bas­sador G. Parthasarthy, a for­mer Am­bas­sador to Pak­istan, who says: “The at­tack de­stroyed stag­ing ar­eas for ter­ror­ists pre­par­ing to cross the LoC and elim­i­nated some of their Pak­istan Army back­ers. This mil­i­tary ac­tion came after a high-volt­age diplo­matic of­fen­sive led per­son­ally by Prime Min­is­ter Modi in fo­rums like G-20 and ASEAN, fo­cus­ing on grow­ing anger in In­dia at un­re­lent­ing Pak­istani sup­port for ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence. Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj re­in­forced the Prime Min­is­ter’s ef­forts speak­ing out at the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly. All this led to open ex­pres­sions of sup­port for In­dia from ma­jor world pow­ers like Rus­sia, US, UK, France, and Ger­many. Even China was cau­tious in its re­sponse, urg­ing ‘re­straint’. But, what has shaken Pak­istan is the sup­port for In­dia from Saudi Ara­bia, UAE, Qatar and Bahrain—coun­tries Islamabad re­garded as ‘nat­u­ral al­lies’.” It would be pru­dent to ex­pect a mil­i­tary re­sponse to the sur­gi­cal strikes from Pak­istan due to the na­ture of Pak­istani state in which they have built up an im­age of them­selves as ‘the big ma­cho tough guy’ with in the coun­try, de­spite the fact that they have lost ev­ery war they have fought against In­dia. More­over Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif, who has built a for­mi­da­ble rep­u­ta­tion for him­self within Pak­istan, is re­tir­ing in about six weeks time and there is talk of him be­ing pro­moted to the rank of a Field Mar­shal. Thus he can­not be seen to be lower than the best. Hence he may con­sider an equiv­a­lent mil­i­tary re­sponse nec­es­sary to re­store his im­age.

Another of­fen­sive op­tion is not to em­ploy the Pak­istani mil­i­tary but in­stead use ji­hadi groups along with the sleeper cells al­ready avail­able in In­dia to carry out ma­jor strikes in the hin­ter­land of In­dia to show their reach and the level of vi­o­lence they can un­leash.

What Should be our Fu­ture Course of Ac­tion

Gurmeet Kan­wal, the mil­i­tary an­a­lyst, sug­gests that if they con­tinue their ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity, all op­tions which can in­flict max­i­mum pun­ish­ment on the Pak­istan mil­i­tary should be planned for, such as ar­tillery strikes, use of ar­tillery guns in di­rect fir­ing role to de­stroy Pak­istani bunkers, and for­ward posts, use of pre­ci­sion guided mu­ni­tions to en­sure least amount of col­lat­eral dam­age, raids by Spe­cial Forces and Bor­der Ac­tion Teams (BATs).

In the hin­ter­land we should get our in­tel­li­gence ma­chin­ery in­te­grated through the con­cept of Na­tional Counter Ter­ror­ism Cen­tre (NCTC) and es­tab­lish the na­tional in­tel­li­gence grid at the ear­li­est. Gen­eral public and in­fra­struc­ture con­sti­tutes the eas­i­est and most vul­ner­a­ble tar­gets for ter­ror­ists and hence we have to put our act to­gether in the hin­ter­land. Mil­i­tary is ca­pa­ble of look­ing after it­self.

Mere neu­tral­i­sa­tion of the ter­ror­ists will not suf­fice be­cause the per­pe­tra­tor of the crime is presently go­ing scot-free and that is the Pak­istan Army and hence their army needs to be tar­geted.

We should ex­am­ine how covert op­er­a­tions can be con­ducted and how fi­nan­cial and mil­i­tary as­sis­tance can be pro­vided to the Baluchis, and to the Pakhtoons. Let Pak­istan face three to four ad­ver­saries si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Let them get a taste of their own home-grown men­ace used against us. Our con­cerned ex­ter­nal in­tel­li­gence agency must be tasked to achieve this at the ear­li­est with strict time lines. We must in­crease the costs for Pak­istan or else we will con­tinue to be at the re­ceiv­ing end as in­deed we have been suf­fer­ing for the past nearly three decades. Pak­istan’s strat­egy of mak­ing In­dia “bleed through a thou­sand cuts” must turned on its head to make them suf­fer the con­se­quences of the ad­ver­sary em­ploy­ing the same strat­egy in their vul­ner­a­ble re­gions.

In the mean­while my rec­om­men­da­tions are that we should in­crease the fund­ing to the de­fence es­tab­lish­ment in the coun­try, and has­ten our mod­erni­sa­tion process. Our De­fence Min­is­ter should mod­ify the scheme of ‘Make in In­dia’ and pro­cure the lat­est proven small arms from friendly for­eign coun­tries such as the United States, Rus­sia or Is­rael. We do not need to wait for a mod­ern as­sault ri­fle. Buy a hun­dred thou­sand from one of these coun­tries and ask them to set up man­u­fac­tur­ing plants in In­dia. I am sure that they would be glad to do it. Sim­i­larly we need to has­ten the pro­cure­ment of ar­tillery how­itzers and re­place the ob­so­lete, 40 years old, he­li­copters of the army. Let the Apache at­tack he­li­copters come to the army so that sur­gi­cal strikes can be done more mean­ing­fully by the army with its own as­sets and against deeper tar­gets in the fu­ture. Nec­es­sary air ef­fort for deeper strikes will be pro­vided by the IAF. The De­fence Min­is­ter and his team of ad­vi­sors need to put their act into place and speed up the mod­erni­sa­tion of the army, which to­day is the least mod­ernised out of the three ser­vices and is likely to be the most op­er­a­tionally em­ployed service in the fu­ture due to the asym­met­ric and hy­brid wars that are more likely in the fu­ture on the west­ern as well as on the eastern front.

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