One aim of India’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control (Loc) in Pakistan-administered Kashmir a year ago was to end terrorist activities. The other aim was to send a message to Pakistan that it must take actions to curb such activities on its soil. India wanted to tell the world that it will retaliate.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat recently hinted at more surgical strikes to eliminate terrorist groups across the LoC. A year after the September 28-29 strikes, it is therefore pertinent to examine whether the desired outcomes of the attack have been achieved.
A surgical strike is an attack against a specific target or enemy with minimum collateral damage. The attack can be carried out by forces on the ground, air or water. It was described as a “calculated manoeuvre to ensure you deliver maximum damage which gives a big surprise to your adversary” by former Air Chief Fali Homi Major on NDTV.
According to a press statement by the Director General of Military Operations on September 29 last year, the strikes were aimed at ensuring that terrorists positioned “to carry out infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes inside Jammu and Kashmir and in various metros in other states” do not succeed.
“The operations were focussed on ensuring that these terrorists do not succeed in their design to cause destruction and endanger the lives of our citizens,” the statement read.
This objective, data suggests, hasn’t been achieved.
The Change In Death Toll: There seems to be no decline in the death toll at least. Data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal, for example, shows that 165 terrorists, 88 security personnel, and 14 civilians were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in 2016. This year, until September 24, these numbers were already at 158, 58, and 47 respectively.
After the surgical strikes in September last year, 194 terrorists have been killed, while 78 security force personnel have lost their lives in the state. In the months preceding the surgical strike in 2016, the Indian army had killed 104 terrorists and lost 44 of its men.
Change In Infiltration Attempts: According to a reply by the home ministry in the parliament, infiltration attempts at the LoC in Kashmir, which is under operational control of the army, seem to have, in fact, increased. While there were 19 such attempts between January and June last year, there were 42 attempts for the corresponding period this year.
Change In Ceasefire Violations: Ceasefire violations too have increased according to another parliament answer. There were 228 incidents of ceasefire violation along the LoC and 221 incidents along the International border in 2016. Until July 11 this year, 228 ceasefire violations at LoC had already taken place. This number, however, stood at 23 at the International border till June 30, 2017.
The after-effects and long term results of the strike have always been in question. “The surgical strikes helped a bit and did create the impact then, but the long term impact that we intended to achieve hasn’t happened,” Rajesh Rajagopalan, professor at JNU’s Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, who specialises in national and international security, told YKA.
“The main aim was to deter Pakistan from supporting terrorism, which hasn’t happened. Pakistan still continues to sponsor terror attacks,” he added.
Others attribute the lack of a desired outcome to flawed intentions behind the strikes. Dilip Mohite, former head of the Department of Political Science at MS University of Baroda, says he doesn’t judge the competence of the armed forces, but he does look at the strikes as a political move to evoke emotions of the people.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on September 25 said that surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) could be repeated if necessary. He said cross-border infiltration will continue because camps across the LoC, from where terrorists are launched, are still operational, and warned that the Indian Army is ready to receive them and keep dispatching them to their graves.
“The strike was a message we wanted to communicate to them and they have understood what we mean…That things could follow up, if required,” Rawat said.
To achieve the intended results and to make Pakistan mend its ways, it is important to undertake subsequent escalations, Rajagopalan too told YKA.