Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally done what India had expected him to do: Order Indian Special Forces Commandos to cross the Line of Control (LoC), enter terrorist training camps or "terror launch pads" in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and conduct a "surgical strike at minimal cost".
By doing so rather quietly and announcing it only after the successful conclusion of a brave and bold military operation inside Pakistani territory, Modi has walked the talk. He has lived up to his image of a strong and decisive leader, who has the right intent, guts and capabilities to not let incidents like Pathankot and Uri go "unpunished". He has shown that when it comes to taking tough decisions, concerning safety and integrity of the country against a warmongering neighbour that keeps on threatening a nuclear arms retaliation, he will not be found wanting. He will not match them with wasteful oral rhetoric, but surprise them with muscular action.
It is now clear that "proactive" measures, "hot pursuit" are no longer just part of political rhetoric or phrases in the English dictionary, but from now on will ever remain part actual Indian strategic thought process by ruling political, military and intelligence establishment. This could potentially alter the way Pakistan has been acting against India, believing that it had turned into a soft State and that Pakistan could happily and endlessly pursue its state policy to export terror and bleed India through a thousand cuts, through a low intensity, covert or proxy war.
What must be noted is the fact that this is the first time in the 70 years since Independence that — at least on public record — India has entered Pakistani territory (in PoK, even as Indian authorities MEA and military used the euphemism 'at LoC') to launch a surgical strike or otherwise on its own, not as a retaliatory strike in a situation of war. So much so that in the 1999 Kargil Conflict, the then Indian establishment led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made too much of virtue by claiming that even in extreme situations, Indian armed forces didn't cross the LoC to strike. Whether that was a position of strength or weakness has for long been debated but the Vajpayee government had held its ground.
Modi is clearly no Vajpayee and has proved that he is cut from a different cloth compared to his own party's stalwart. He does not consider LoC as sacrosanct as his predecessors believed. After all, if we as a nation believed in our own Parliamentary resolution that the whole of Kashmir was ours, then crossing the LoC to enter PoK to neutralise terrorists and terror camps should have been a natural course of action, at least as and when situation required. Unlike Vajpayee, he did not raise temperatures by saying "aar-paar ki ladai" or calling for something like Operation Parakram. He maintained an outwardly restraint, even facing some criticism by his fans and critics yet did what he ought to have done — strike inside PoK with the desired effectiveness.
The way this announcement was made after first full-fledged Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) meeting since Uri by the Director-General of Military Operations and MEA, the way government decided to ask the DGMO speak to his Pakistani counterpart that the action was over and India didn't want to escalate it further(at least for now or till further provocation), and also to take other Indian leaders in confidence over the surgical strike, is indicative of the fact that Modi has been acting with required maturity — do what he wanted to do, yet keep international and domestic opinion on his side. His team of a chosen few in the government, military and intelligence had obviously done its homework well.
India has been able to explain its action convincingly. Even the words spoken by the DGMO Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh weere measured, "Based on credible information that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at the Line of Control, the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes last night on terror launch pads across the LoC. The operations were focused to ensure that terrorists do not succeed in their plans for infiltration... During these counter-terror operations, significant casualties have been caused to the terrorists and those trying to shield (read Pakistani Army and Rangers) them... The Indian armed forces are fully prepared for any contingency."
"I have spoken to the Pakistani DGMO and shared details of the attacks with him," he said, adding, "It is India's intention to maintain peace and tranquility. But we cannot allow terrorists to operate along the LoC," he said.
The Indian armed forces have been instructed to respond to any ceasefire violations at LoC and along the International Border with full forces and effectiveness.
A rattled Pakistan obviously couldn't accept the obvious and face severe domestic backlash. Its Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) put out two statements. The first statement — giving names of areas where the action occured — said, "Two Pakistani soldiers embraced Shahadat". It continued:
Pakistani troops befittingly responded to Indian unprovoked firing on loc in Bhimber, hotspring, kel, and Lipa sectors. Exchange of fire which started at 0230 hrs after midnight continued till 0800 hrs
Later, ISPR said that "there has been no surgical strike by India":
There has been no surgical strike by India, instead there had been cross border fire initiated and conducted by India which is existential phenomenon. As per rules of engagement same was strongly and befittingly responded by Pakistani troops.
The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by Indian to create false effects.This quest by Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross border fire as surgical strike is fabrication of truth. Pakistan has made it clear that if there is a surgical strike on Pakistani soil, same will be strongly responded.
The question is that if the second statement of Pakistan's ISPR is true even after some degree of admission in the first statement, then why would Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif go to Radio Pakistan to say, "Our intent for a peaceful neighbourhood should not be mistaken as our weakness"? Look at what what Radio Pakistan has to say: "Strongly condemning unprovoked and naked aggression of Indian forces along the Line of Control, (Sharif) said Pakistan can thwart any evil design to undermine the sovereignty of Pakistan".
Interestingly, unlike Sharif's rhetorical rants, Modi himself has not spoken a word. Modi has let his military talk.