Is India capable of surgical strike in Pakistan?

News & Views

Mohammad Jamil

A secret meeting of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) took place under Mohan Bhagwat, Chief of RSS, which was attended among others by Dr Subhash Bhambre, Minister of State for Defence. According to the details, the RSS wanted BJP to be more aggressive towards Pakistan and conduct surgical strikes across Line of Control in Pakistan. A military operation has been planned against Pakistan on LoC, working boundary and even international border to have favourable impact on the outcome of elections. RSS also expects from BJP to build Ayodhya Temple after forming government in the UP. Prime Minister Modi has made important appointments including COAS, RAW and IB Chiefs to lead these organizations. There is a possibility of false flag operation by India to justify so-called surgical strike to appease extremist groups and to convince Indians that India can act tough with Pakistan.
New Indian COAS is said to be an expert in conducting surgical strikes, as 3 Corps had conducted “cross border strikes” against Naga rebels in Myanmar. Reportedly, para drop practices and exercises have been conducted recently in Kishtwar (IOK), Samba, Jammu and Bhatinda. India had claimed that it conducted a surgical strike in, what was said, in Pakistan- controlled Kashmir across the Line of Control (LoC). Pakistan denied that India carried out a surgical strike and claimed that two of its soldiers were killed in cross border fire. “The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists’ bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects,” the Pakistani military said in a statement. According to Indian media, director general of military operations, Lt. General Ranbir Singh, publicly announced the strike, what he said, to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists.
Throughout the day Pakistan continued to deny any surgical strike took place. “There has been no surgical strike by India, instead there was cross border fire initiated and conducted by India, which is existential phenomenon,” the Pakistan Army said in a statement. A report in ‘The Diplomat’ stated: “A surgical strike operation by Indian forces gives rise to the question as to 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. India is still on the cusp of building a sophisticated and modernized asymmetrical capability to conduct counter-terror operations, while its forces are still organized and trained on Cold War models.”
In other words, much of India’s asymmetrical warfare capability is still being developed and tested. The examples above are by no means an exhaustive list but it certainly details a capacity not fully developed by Indian forces. 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, and Azad Kashmir is a high threat area for shoulder fired surface to air missiles. Hence, any air operation over the territory would be foiled by such weapons. Former Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh had said: “Its armed forces are capable of defending sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country against any foreign aggression. We are acutely aware that swift and short nature of future war is likely to offer limited warning time, which calls for maintaining very high levels of operational preparedness at all times.”
Pakistan’s senior foreign ministry official had reportedly dismissed the Indian army chief’s warning as ‘mere rhetoric’ saying there was no possibility of a ‘limited war’ between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. It means if there is war, it will be a full scale war, and can be limited in a sense that in case of use of nukes, there will be no concept of the victor and the vanquished. India’s concept of limited war dates back to 2009 and even earlier; and in the first week of November 2009, Pakistan’s defence analysts had reported about India’s planning for so-called ‘Cold Start’ strategy and preparing for a limited war against Pakistan. General Kapoor’s statement on 23rd November 2009 had confirmed the hegemonic thrust of India’s nuclear doctrine. Former Indian army chief Deepak Kapoor and later chiefs of staffs committee (COSC) had indicated that India was setting the stage for a limited war against Pakistan since long; but reiterating the limited war concept is rhetoric.
According to newspaper’s report in December 2009, Indian Army was revising its five-year-old doctrine to effectively meet the challenges of war with China and Pakistan, deal with asymmetric and fourth-generation warfare, and enhance strategic reach and joint operations with IAF and Navy. Work on the new war doctrine – to reflect the reconfiguration of threat perceptions and security challenges – was already underway under the aegis of Simla-based Army Training Command, but to no avail. The head of the then command Lt. General A.S. Lamba went so far as to say that a massive thrust in Rawalpindi could quiet Pakistanis within 48 hours of the start of the assault. According to him Cold Start Doctrine was an Exclusively Offensive, Blitzkrieg inspired military strategy, reportedly developed by the Indian Military Command (IMC), specifically for Pakistan to replace the outdated ‘Sundarji Doctrine’, which miserably failed during 2001-2002 standoff with Pakistan.
Anti-Pakistan statements with provocative themes and jargons by Indian civil and military leadership are deplorable. Pakistan’s elected and military leaderships have shown tolerance and cool attitude, while the enemy is yelling for a possible confrontation. Indian politicians and top Generals must understand the implications of war-mongering, provocative statements and warnings to peaceful neighbor, who is equally equipped to respond effectively. Anyhow, Indian leadership should not exacerbate the tensions in Asia and forget about the limited war, as in case of ultimate war between two atomic states there would be no victor or vanquished. It should also understand that during peace time, army generals should not come out with aggressive statements because that can be construed as declaration of war. Taiwan, Palestine and Kashmir are considered as flashpoints; however Kashmir dispute is viewed the world over as a flashpoint that could potentially flare up into a nuclear armed conflict.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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