News & Views
The ISPR in a press release stated: “There has been no surgical strike by India; instead there was cross border fire initiated and conducted by India, which is a regular phenomenon. As per rules of engagement, same was strongly and befittingly responded by Pakistani troops.” A visit to areas along the Line of Control was arranged for journalists by the Pakistan Army. Journalists were shown different points at the LoC and given a briefing by the Inter-Services Public Relations, after which many reported that they were satisfied, based on their interviews with local residents and military officials, that no surgical strikes had taken place as claimed by India. Meanwhile, India has backtracked on its claim that 150 soldiers were airdropped across the border in Azad Jammu and Kashmir to launch surgical strikes. The UN observers also did not agree with India’s claim of surgical strikes.
The denial came from Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who told daily The Hindu, a leading Indian daily, that no aerial operations were involved. A day earlier, Indian media ran stories that 150 soldiers were dropped across LoC by helicopter. “There were no aerial strikes,” Mr. Rathore, himself an ex-Indian Army man, said, adding that the Indian Army crossed the LoC on the ground for carrying out what he termed were pre-emptive strikes. “That is not like crossing the International Border. The targets were launch pads, he said, which are temporary in nature.” The Indian information minister’s U-turn lends credence to Pakistan version, which says that there was no surgical strike whether through paratroopers or by land. Pakistan has termed Indians’ claims of surgical strikes as fabricated and unfounded. ISPR stated that Indians had resorted to unprovoked shelling on Pakistani posts in five sectors.
After BJP won elections, Narendra Modi had invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his oath-taking ceremony, and Nawaz Sharif indeed attended the ceremony against the wishes of majority of the people of Pakistan. Since Narendra Modi is at the helm, there have been violations of Line of Control, and repression on Kashmiris has increased manifold. On one hand, he tried to change the demography of Kashmir by establishing soldiers’ colonies and also inviting pundits and Hindus to settle in Jammu and Kashmir. India has been upping the ante, and lately India has decided to review the Indus Water Treaty to deprive Pakistan of Water. Reportedly, China is poised to block a tributary of Brahmaputra River as part of a major hydroelectric project, whose construction began in 2014. Some did highlight this move by China as a response to Indian threats to Pakistan, which shows that Pakistan is not isolated.
Beijing on Saturday said it has extended the decision to block New Delhi’s appeal to the United Nations to label Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a terrorist. The technical hold on India’s listing application submitted to the 1267 committee in March, 2016 has already been extended,” the English translation of the response said, using the formal procedural protocol terms under which New Delhi appealed for Azhar to be designated a terrorist. In Pakistan, all political parties are united in giving a befitting response in case India resorts to adventurism. Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in a statement said that “India is only good at hurling threats but if the Pakistani military decides to act on them, the response will assume a far more practical form.” The ISPR in its release stated: “The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists’ bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects.”
India’s director general of military operations, Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, had publicly announced the strike. He stated, “Based on receiving specific and credible inputs that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along the Line of Control to carry out infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes inside Jammu and Kashmir and in various metros in other states, the Indian army conducted surgical strikes at several of these launch pads to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists.” India has not provided any details of the operation but claimed that the surgical strikes consisted of a heliborne unit and Special Forces that infiltrated the LoC and conducted assaults on seven suspected terrorist launch pads that were two to three km beyond the LoC. The questions are being asked by international media whether Indian forces have the capability to launch such a sophisticated and coordinated attack.
Surgical strikes can be conducted through airborne or artillery based precision guided strikes or ground force based assaults, both of which require sophisticated intelligence collection, platforms to conduct collections, and surveillance of target sites and objectives. According to analysts, India is still on the cusp of building a sophisticated and modernized asymmetrical capability to conduct counter-terror operations, while much of its forces are still organized and trained on Cold War models. Over last decade, India has spearheaded efforts to modernize her military to include domestic production of unmanned aerial vehicles. Rostum-I & Rostum-II could provide India with an air platform capable of surgical strikes, for target surveillance, and intelligence collection. However, these platforms are still in development and Rostum-II just began test trials this summer. India’s drone development program is still in its infancy.
As far as precision strike missile capability, India has recently acquired the U.S. anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) Hellfire, which has frequently been used for targeting operations by U.S. forces; but India has yet to test the missile. Furthermore, a cross border air raid by either heliborne assets or drones would still prove exceedingly difficult as Pakistan has an incredibly impressive air defense system. To further up the ante, India decided to withdraw from Indus Water Treaty to deprive Pakistan of its legitimate share of water, which is continuation of its devious designs, as India’s think-tanks have been working on river diversion plans with a view to creating acute water shortage in Pakistan to adversely impact crops and also to stir inter-provincial conflicts over distribution of water. But Pakistan would consider it as an act of war; and war between two nuclear states could bring large scale destruction in both the countries.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.