While opposition parties were expected to politicise India’s surgical strikes in PoK on 28 September, our electronic media appears to have gone more than berserk. The opposition fears are natural with the approaching elections particularly in Uttar Pradesh where they would not want the NDA government to draw any political mileage having demonstrated a pro-active stance against rogue Pakistan.
So while they support government action, they make direct and indirect suggestions that the strikes were a big hoax by the Centre that has created the adverse prevailing situation. Those media hawks aligned cross-border or with the Opposition including those funded from dubious sources directly or through media houses located abroad continue to play games that certainly are not in our national interests. But they are secure in the knowledge that India is yet to find a solution on how to differentiate between ‘sedition’ and ‘freedom of press’ – similar to confusing ‘bureaucratic control’ over military with ‘civilian control’ whereas it should actually be ‘political control’ over the military. So these media hawks are naturally revered by our adversaries.
Then there is this politician famously called ‘pole tortoise’ who is obsessed with cross-border love, who reportedly consulted a surgeon and surmised that surgical strike implies cutting a limb, crippling the enemy and deterring terrorism but Pakistan's response shows nothing has been cut off or deterred. His conclusion therefore is that these strikes were not ‘surgical’ but perhaps could have been categorised as ‘general medication’. But wait, he has more pearls of wisdom – he says launch pads are used by missiles, not guerillas, who are very mobile and infiltrate wherever opportunity beckons; they are not stationary targets (read like missile launch pads). Apparently, this tortoise could have taught a thing or two to Liddell Hart, Colin Grey and others. The Opposition sure doesn’t want the government to gain because of their bold action and stern political message to Pakistan in the forthcoming elections in UP, Punjab and other states. So, they have adopted the policy to praise the military but demand proof — not realizing they doubt and denigrate their own military in the process. But then there are many of those who are prepared to sell anything of the sake of votes.
There are others of the same ilk holding important positions that are patronized more by Pakistan and do the latter’s bidding. So whatever they say publicly finds widespread mention in the Pakistani media. Take for example the recent exhortations by Delhi CM to release evidence of the surgical raids undertaken by India. This, in the backdrop of the massive disinformation campaign launched by Pakistan, which was not required in the first place if nothing had really happened or rather the cross-LoC strikes had not been executed. But let us examine the demand for release of photographic evidence to prove that the strikes actually took place, which actually amounts to doubting their own military. It is known by and large by now that the above mentioned surgical strikes were monitored by Cartosat-2.
However, satellites clips of even US and Israel operations only show movement of personnel as small-sized gray-white blobs. These cannot differentiate between friend and foe and certainly cannot identify any individual. A launch pad for 8-10 terrorists actually implies an overnight halting place, not an elaborate set up like the some of the crows would believe it to be. Filming can hardly be expected as done by US Navy Seals in Abottabad or like the movie Zero Dark Thirty. Besides, Indian Special Forces do not have the wherewithal yet to upload live pictures directly to the satellite. Whatever photos/video evidence taken cannot certify these were shot at a particular place – there are no signboards like this is Delhi CM’s residence or that is his bedroom.
Pakistan’s ISPR knows this full well and that is why increased Pakistani demands, including its sympathisers in India, to release the photos. When Pakistan can say that the Uri terrorist attack was the handiwork of RAW, why would they not say the same when evidence is released by India — that these pictures are taken within India? Most importantly, you cannot expect your own military to be part of such hoax. In fact with our NSA speaking to his counterpart in the US before these strikes, these operations may have monitored by US satellites also. Surprisingly Pakistan never asked for photographic evidence when they lost East Pakistan, when General AAK Niazi signed the instrument of surrender and when 93,000 Pakistani military men laid down their arms. So, why the demand now – is it because they have been shocked out of their wits? Why fire at civilians in villages in desperation now? Nawaz Sharif yelling “naked aggression” immediately post the strike was proof enough.
But it is shameful to see and hear the crows and frogs within our country who are cawing and croaking without any sense of national pride.
The media continues to go berserk; debating future operational options, pitting senior military veterans, even former Service Chiefs in these senseless debates. In which country do you see this type of nonsocial drama? Who discusses options like this in public? Of course there can always be an odd journalist who can’t get over his childhood shock of having seen his father go down in disgrace. But then there are others who will produce sand models showing future options, akin to arrows and pincers shown after every corps level exercises or like layout of the Parliament was shown after it was attacked by terrorists. Then media’s love for Special Forces shoots up after every major terror attack or incidents like the US raid to kill Osama-bin-Laden or say our last raid along the Myanmar border. So this time also the very same sets of questions were brought up by many channels, including whether our boys can execute the Abbotabad type of raid? This without knowing how many years it took the US to build up intelligence, how it was acquired, mechanics of the raid to kill Osama, suppression of Pakistani air defences and the like. The more enterprising ones wanted to know details of all types of weaponry and equipment our Special Forces hold. Some having heard Special Forces had been employed, talked about para-dropping, combat free-fall and even helicopters landing across the across the LoC. The whole process is akin to discussing scams in India – intense debate and then shoved under the carpet till next scam comes up; in this case till the next major terror attack or Special Forces action.
What we need to realise is that though these surgical strikes sent the right political message to Pakistan, they were executed on foot and given the distance across the LoC were tactical. Though Special Forces were used, these could have been undertaken by regular infantry too. The primary employment of Special Forces should be at the strategic level. But that is something that the hierarchy is unlikely to address in the near future given the type of higher defence structures that we have.
Meanwhile, let the crows caw and the frogs croak but let us not go overboard about these surgical strikes.
The author is veteran Lt Gen of Indian Army who has served in Kashmir