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Did the Indian Army's surgical strike achieve its objective?
Things are not going well for the BJP government. The rupee has slid to an all-time low. Petrol prices are at an all-time high. Black money in Swiss banks is up by 50 per cent to over Rs 7,000 crore. India has been proclaimed as the most unsafe place for women in the world. The UN has slammed India for human rights violations in Kashmir.

As the 2019 general election approaches and the threat of the opposition's unity looms, the BJP is desperately looking for its past achievements to trumpet. With very few available, the BJP and its supporting media are promulgating the surgical strike carried out by the Indian Army almost two years ago on 29 September 2016 as a great success and a great achievement of the PM. The Congress has expressed doubts about the reality of the strike and claims that it is nothing but political propaganda. The BJP has released videos of the strike. BJP leaders are shouting at the top of their voices on TV channels calling the Congress anti-national. A complaint has been filed against Congress leaders from Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saifuddin Soz accusing them of sedition.

This article does not seek to question whether the surgical strike did take place. It is true that videos may at timesbe part of fake news. It is also true that fake encounters by police and armed forces do take place. But since I have no evidence except Pakistani claims to prove that no surgical strike took place, I accept that the strike did take place and was a success.

This article also does not seek to question the patriotism and valour of officers and men of the Indian Army. They have proved it on the most treacherous battle fields against all odds during the 1962 debacle, in the capture of Hajipir Pass and during the Kargil War, to name a few. It was the politicians and subservient generals who let the Indian Army down in 1962 and the Battle of Jaffna where a platoon of Sikh Light Infantry was helicopter dropped behind enemy lines without a sound plan of link-up and left to die.

The surgical strike

The "surgical strike" was launched on the night of 29 September 2016 by the Indian Army against terror launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir. The "surgical strike" was announced with great fanfare by the Prime Minister. It was claimed to be a great success. The Indian action was meant to prevent infiltration by terrorists. Indian media reported that 35 to 70 terrorists had been killed.

Pakistan denied that any such strike took place. It said that Indian troops had not crossed the Line of Control but had clashed with Pakistani troops at the border. Two Pakistani soldiers were killed and nine were wounded. Pakistani sources claimed that at least 8 Indian soldiers were killed in the exchange and one was captured. India confirmed that one of its soldiers was in Pakistan's custody, but denied that it was linked to the incident or that any of its soldiers had been killed. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the UN Observer Group in Pakistani Kashmir did not directly observe any "firing across the Line of Control" relating to the incident.

The Indian operation was said to be in retaliation to the militant attack on an Indian Army camp at Uri on 18 September that had left 19 soldiers dead.

The aftermath

India and Pakistan had been exchanging fire along the border in Kashmir before the "surgical strike". They continue to do so even today. Military and civilian casualties take place on both sides. Ceasefire violations have not decreased after the "surgical strike". They have increased in both frequency and intensity. Heavier weapons are being used by both sides and civilian, paramilitary and regular army casualties have been mounting on both sides. The website wikipedia.org chronicles by date the ceasefire violations and casualties on both sides. They are in thousands and casualties of all categories are in hundreds on both sides. The villagers in border areas are under constant danger. The Home Minister during a recent visit to these villages announced that India would build hundreds of bunkers for the civilians. It is the first time in 70 years that such a measure has been contemplated.

The "surgical strike" has not reduced infiltration and violence in the Kashmir Valley. In fact it has increased to unprecedented levels.

What was the government's objective in ordering the strike?

It is not clear as to why the government of India ordered the "surgical strike". An Army chief can take action as deemed fit to defend the border but he has no authority to allow the Indian Army to cross the Line of Control. Since he has not been sacked but praised, it is clear that he was ordered to carry out the surgical strike.

Did the government order the surgical strike to teach Pakistan a lesson as suggested by some anchors and defence experts on TV? If so, it has been a miserable failure. Pakistan has not been cowed down. It has tried to meet fire with fire. Violence and casualties have increased. The politicians do not care about casualties. To them these are mere statistics. But when a soldier dies, his parents lose their son, sometimes the only one; a wife loses her husband and the children their father. The politicians and generals feel no pain but families are shattered. Soldiers must make the supreme sacrifice to defend their country. But is this tit for tat mindless violence at the borders worth sacrificing lives?

Did the government order the "surgical strike" to stop infiltration and violence in the Kashmir Valley? If so, the operation has been a miserable failure. Infiltration and violence have not reduced but increased.

However, if the government ordered the "surgical strike" for building the image of the Prime Minister and the BJP then it has been a moderate success. Those with no understanding of military and national security matters were initially impressed. But memories fade. Arm chair pundits have time to glorify their leaders or berate opposition leaders. The ordinary voting public, the humble chaiwalas and the rikshawalas are too busy trying to make both ends meet to care a hoot.

Conclusion

Would the government please clarify as to why they ordered the "surgical strike" and what it has achieved?

Former BJP Union Minister Arun Shourie has criticized the government for releasing the video footage of the September 2016 surgical strike. He said that the episode was being used for political propaganda purposes ahead of the 2019 general elections.

"The way you (government) have used the strike for propaganda purposes, for building a self-image reduces an essential instrument to a farce. A strike became a farcical strike," Shourie told NDTV, convinced that the decision to release the video is "all election driven".

He could well be right. Will the propaganda work? Only time can tell.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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