By Lt Col Anil Bhat (Retired)
Barely days after India’s surgical strikes in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), there have been seven or more attempts by terrorists to attack Indian locations, including Akhnoor and Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir and Gurdaspur in Punjab.
The tally of ceasefire violations, unprovoked firing and terrorist attacks in Kashmir has exceeded twenty five. All attacks have been beaten back and by the Indian Army and the Border Security Force (BSF). A constable of the Border Security Force, Nitin Kumar, was killed.
It appears that Pakistan began reacting after the “post-surgery anesthesia”, which Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar quipped about with reference to the Indian Army’s surgical strikes. The Defence Minister pointed out that the surgical strikes were conducted based on credible information about the presence of terrorists in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, which is a part of India.
The Indian Army’s Director General Military Operations (DGMO), Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, said, “the motive of this operation was to hit out at the terrorists who were planning to infiltrate into our territory…..Indian armed forces are ready for any contingency. ….I spoke to the Pak DGMO, shared our concerns and told him that we conducted surgical strikes last night….. As of now, we have no plans of further operations.”
He, however, added that if necessary, more such operations could be undertaken. Such an operation can only succeed like it did, with painstaking preparation involving hard and continuous real-time intelligence and meticulous coordination right till the conclusion – and all with guts and calmness. The modus of the attack was a combination of a preponderance of accurate firepower with boots on the ground and the fact that all this was achieved without suffering casualties; a combination of professionalism and good luck.
Reactions from Pakistan were confusing to say the least. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemning the “unprovoked and naked aggression” by India along the LoC, said Pakistan’s armed forces are fully capable of defending the territorial integrity of the country.
Sharif also warned that Pakistan’s intent for a peaceful neighbourhood should not be mistaken as its weakness and that Pakistan can thwart any “evil design” to undermine its sovereignty.
While initially the Pakistan Army is reported to have denied the Indian Army operation altogether, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) is later reported to have said that Indian Army troops entered three kilometers and that the exchange of fire began at 2.30 am and continued till 8 am, in which “Pakistani troops befittingly responded to Indian unprovoked firing on the LoC in Bhimber, Hotspring Kel and Lipa sectors.”
The ISPR stated that only two Pakistan army soldiers were killed in routine cross border firing and released the photographs of the two dead soldiers, identified as Havildar Jumma Khan and Naik Imtiaz.
There are other reports saying that at least nine Pakistan army personnel actively supporting the terrorists in their locations with fire were reported killed and nine injured.
While the terrorists’ fatal casualty count so far is 38 to 45, according to an uncorroborated radio intercept of 29 September, fifteen Pakistan army personnel were killed, nine wounded.
53 terrorists were killed.
26 September news reports citing intelligence sources from Pakistan indicated that 16-17 terror training camps of Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Hizbul Mujahideen were shifted from their current locations after the Uri attack and relocated in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir with the help of the Pakistani army and the Inter-services Intelligence (ISI). Of these, four were terror camps operating from Mansehra and Muzaffarabad. If so, then all the more credit to Northern Command and its units for the results achieved.
The Indian Army’s highly successful surgical strike in PoK proves its capability and capacity and has shaken the Pakistan government and army and sent them into a huddle. All leaves of Pakistan army personnel have also been cancelled.
India is neither complacent, nor taking any chances. Apart from maintaining a sharp vigil on the LoC and the International Border (IB), villages close to both have been evacuated. Pakistan is seething. Indian Army’s raid has again exposed its army. It has exposed Pakistan’s duplicity of supporting terrorists, much akin to what happened after American Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad.
The Pakistan army may well be desperately trying to muster more terrorists to strike in J&K and other soft targets in India. There are reports of at least three hundred terrorists running away from the POK camps after the 29 September strike.
If Pakistan army decides to retaliate on the ground from POK, or from Pakistan, it remains to be seen whether it will be able to do so. Considering what the Indian Army has done, it is well prepared for a riposte by Pakistan army and if that riposte comes, Pakistan army will get it back in ample measure, to say the least.
India has taken precautions of vacating villages in close vicinity of the LoC and the International Border (IB) even before Pakistan rangers began violating the cease fire near Akhnoor. Will the Pakistan army opt for full-fledged war? While immediately after India’s strikes it stopped its personnel’s leave.
Pakistan has avoided a full- fledged conventional war, after 1971 and has switched to the export of terror. If it resorts to limited war like Kargil in 1999, it will again get an appropriate response.
It is indeed unfortunate that Pakistani defence minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif, reportedly threatened to resort to use of nuclear weapons against India if New Delhi retaliated to the Uri terrorist attacks. He is not the first Pakistan leader to threaten to do so.
Very often in the past, Indian armed forces veterans have held the view that India must call Pakistan’s oft repeated nuclear bluff.
The New York Times, citing a 50-minute audio hacked from the Democratic Party’s computers during Hilary Clinton’s close door fundraiser in Virginia in February, quoted her: “Pakistan is running full speed to develop tactical nukes in their continuing hostility with India….But we live in fear that they’re going to have a coup, that jihadists are going to take over the government, they’re going to get access to nuclear weapons, and you’ll have suicide nuclear bombers. So, this could not be a more threatening scenario.”
With few days left for General Raheel Sharif to retire and the way things are in Pakistan after India’s surgical strike, the US and other countries must seriously note the risk of Pakistan’s nukes falling into horrendous hands.
In what is considered an important diplomatic move, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval spoke to his American counterpart Susan Rice and taking her into confidence about the cross LoC operation. Mr Doval has also spoken to his Pakistani counterpart, who despite the hyper attacks/violations by Pakistan forces and its terrorist proxies, ironically talks about “defusing tension.”
India’s armed forces and central armed police forces have been put on the highest alert. Areas adjacent to border and LoC in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir are being evacuated and even hospitals have been sounded.
While there has been additional deployment of BSF, there is a high alert from Gujarat to Kashmir along the IB and LoC. Indian Coast Guard has been asked to be extra vigilant. Indian Coast Guard Ship Samudra Pavak apprehended a Pak boat with a crew of nine at about 10.15 hours on 02 October 16. Preliminary information indicates the crew to be Pak fishermen. However, the Pak boat and the crew were taken over by the Indian Coast Guard ship and taken to Porbandar for further rummaging and a joint investigation.
On October 2, 2016, ISPR chief LtGen. Asim Bajwa conducted a media tour to Mandhole village close to the LoC to counter the “impression created by India.” Pointing to an Indian army post high on a forested ridge along the LoC, he said that any incursions were impossible. Media were told that Pakistan has solid fortifications, layers of defence and that the LoC cannot be violated and, “If they’ve caused that damage to us, we don’t know any has been caused to us! You can go and meet the civilian population. Our side is open: to the UN mission, to the media, to the general public.” The report said that it was not possible to verify the Lt Gen Bajwa’s claims.
On October 3, there were various meetings by union home minister Rajnath Singh and defence minister Manohar Parrikar and the three service chiefs. While there have been many unsuccessful attacks and unprovoked firing at Indian villages near the LoC and the IB by Pakistan army supported terrorists, Indian government, armed and security forces are planning for all contingencies.
Meanwhile, the process of Pakistan’s isolation in the international community, which began after the Uri attack, has proceeded further. India wants Pakistan to dismantle its terrorism apparatus and the message has been conveyed to our neighbor.
Lt Col Anil Bhat (retired) is a security and strategic analyst. The views expressed in the above article are his own.