After the 1971 victory over Pakistan, India for some reason developed a passive attitude toward its Western neighbour, which became more pronounced after the nuclear tests conducted by both India and Pakistan in 1998. This gave Pakistan the window of opportunity to continue with its infamous policy of ‘bleeding India with a thousand cuts,’ through support to cross border terrorism.
For the first time, the BJP led government decided to counter Pakistan’s proxy war with a strike across the border on the night of 28- 29 September 2016. This was in response to the terror attack by a Pakistan sponsored ter- ror group on 18 September, which resulted in the death of 19 Indian soldiers at Uri. Indian special forces attacked terrorist camps across the Line of Control at multiple points, spread over large distances, and eliminated all the terrorists and their supporters who were there at that time. The success of the mission was announced to the media on the morning of 29 September by the then DGMO, Lt Gen. Ranbir Singh.
As was to be expected, the Pakistan military put out a denial and stated that only a skirmish had taken place at one to two places, within the very close proximity of the LoC and that the Pakistan military suffered a loss of two killed and nine soldiers injured. The Pakistani denial was perhaps to keep the situation from escalating, as a confirmation by them of the strikes would have put pres- sure from their public to respond militarily, which Pakistan was perhaps loathe to do. This was understandable. What however was quite unacceptable, was the response of some political parties in the opposition in India, which demanded proof of the‘Surgical Strikes’ from the Indian Army.
This was as absurd as it could get. Which country asks for proof from its own Army? And why this lack of faith? Was it merely to score a point over the ruling dispensation and deny them any credit in providing the political leadership to pull of such a feat? Even worse, voices started being raised that the Congress too had carried out such strikes earlier, but did not see the need to ‘advertise’ the same. This was being economical with the truth as all earlier cross border interven- tions by the Indian Army were at the behest of the local commanders as a quid pro quo to enemy actions. This strike was different.
Over the last two years we continually heard opposition parties bleating—and some in the veteran community too—that the surgical strike accomplished nothing as Pakistan was still continuing with its support to terrorist groups. It is obvious that one strike was not going to change the Pakistani establishments’ nefarious designs. But it did set a precedent for future action, and this came in the form of an air strike on the Jaish- e-Mohammed terror camp at Balakot on the night of 26-27 February 2019, in response to the dastardly suicide attack carried out by this group in Pulwama on 14 February, two weeks earlier. The strike was not in POK but in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which sent another message to Pakistan of another glass ceiling being breached as part of the Indian response options. But sadly, the opposition once again began bleating and asking for proof, despite the Air Chief making a state- ment on the success of the mission.
A nation’s military fights better when it knows that it has the entire public behind it, but we have a piquant situation in India where the opposition is actually hoping for a military setback to its own armed forces, in order to gain some electoral advantage. This is a sad development and it is but hoped that the coming years will see greater maturity amongst the current set of politicians who are occupying the opposition space in the Lok Sabha. That is the least they can do for their Armed Forces, instead of consistently toeing the line of the enemy.