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HomeDefenceSurgical strikes were well executed, but aimed at appeasing a domestic audience

Surgical strikes were well executed, but aimed at appeasing a domestic audience

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At last the government has come up with a strategy of “compellance” against Pakistan with the surgical strikes, but has no plan to deal with what comes after. 

The import of the ‘surgical strikes’ launched by the Special Forces on night of 28-29 September, 2016, was not in the number of enemy casualties and the infrastructure destroyed or the depth and frontage of the operation or the type of weapons used.

It lay in the declaration of India’s intent for dealing with the proxy war perpetrated by Pakistan in the future. “Alea iacta est” (the die is cast), we all thought. At last a government has come up with a comprehensive political and military strategy of ‘compellence’ for dealing with Pakistan. 

Pakistan’s response to the surgical strikes was in consonance with its long term strategy. The surgical strikes were denied and ridiculed, putting the onus on India to provide the details.

It responded to India’s aggressive posture along the LoC in a quid pro quo manner using matching firepower and Special Forces/Border Action Teams. Infiltration into J&K has increased and so has terrorist violence. Pakistan has made it clear that there will be no change in its strategy. 

Escalatory retribution is an integral part of a strategy of ‘compellence’. In the absence of any follow up on the surgical strikes, the moot question is, does India really have a National Security Strategy to force compliance on Pakistan? The surgical strikes were a standalone and well executed tactical operation without any strategic plans to follow up and clearly, they were aimed more at the domestic audience than Pakistan.

“War is too serious to trust it to generals,” said Winston Churchill. But then, Churchill had done a spell in the army, was a war correspondent, and was the First Lord of the Admiralty, and Minister of Munitions during the First World War before influencing the strategy during the Second World War. In our case, it would be equally apt to say that National Security is too serious a business to be driven by “post-truth politics” in which bravado, rhetoric, emotions, ignorance, and impulsiveness are the main drivers and rational military counsel is either absent or ignored.

The writer was the Northern and Central Army Commander. 

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  1. Shameful that somebody who headed the Northern Command would make such patently biased and ignorant comments.

    The idea that surgical strike would entail a repeated escalation cycle of strike-counter strike operations in response to Pakistani or terrorist attacks was never on the cards and no rational strategist would venture to claim such. The consequence of such folly would be a full out war and a massive death toll for marginal tactical victories or a few dead terrorists.

    The surgical strike was always about “perception” – both domestically and especially in Pakistani military minds. The psychological component is the reason these strikes were carried out – not the tactical reasons why, since these tactical objectives would have been achieved through fire support just as easily.

    To claim that there was no effect from the surgical strikes is therefore a falsehood -as Pakistani military’s image took a body blow both inside Pakistan and in the militant groups, the massive fire assaults on the LOC – especially those targetting Pakistani army facilities and support infrastructure has caused great consternation in the Pakistani Army – with the constant news reports in Pakistan, the Pakistani Govt’s repeated statements on the LOC violations at the UN and other fora and the frequency of Pakistani Rangers and Army personnel calling for flag meetings. Pakistan which cared nothing for the LoC ceasefire is now suddenly its biggest proponent. The massive civilian casualties have not helped the Pakistani Army’s image either.

    This pro-active posture beside the employment of other tools of attack like diplomacy and intelligence operations have put Pakistan under pressure like never before – so much so that they have explicitly cried about it at the UN .

    In such circumstances it is the “fake news” retired officers who want to spin fiction while issuing sermons about “post-truth politics” while reverently quoting Churchil – perhaps the biggest mass-murder of Indian lives for his role in the Bengal Famine. Yet so-called “patriots” would use his words to play politics.

    If “generals can’t be trusted” with war – do you really presume that they can be trusted with something far more dangerous like “politics” ?

  2. I wonder if Pakistan can indeed match India’s aggressive posture along the LoC in a quid pro quo manner using matching firepower!!! If that were the case why has there been no visible escalation and why are only a few low cost Jihadis bring pushed in??? Neither has anything spectacular has been achieved by their Special Forces or Border Action Teams in the past year. Infiltration into J&K has increased but so has their elimination rate. That Pakistan has made it clear by their actions that there will be no change in its strategy is a fact … However low cost Jehadis who can only strike once before being extinguished, that certainly does not serve their stated purpose of integrating Kashmir within the Pakistani Fold in the near term … If Pakistan is not winning nor are we loosing .. much!!! General Panag has just skirted the issue and has not given his mind on the way forward and I wonder what constrains him now that he can and should speak his mind !!! In the absence of his own road map ahead this is just a compulsive & meaningless critique!!!

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