Mystery Strikes
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Mystery Strikes

The randomisation of the fire and the saturation of an area is a feature of border shelling and not of surgical strike.

The Uri attack of September 18, 2016 in which 18 Indian army men were killed created hullaballoo in the country, making the Indian people absolutely hopping mad. The tempers of the Indian people particularly the media ran high. While the rhapsodists demanded a tough action to be taken, the jingoists were extremely vociferous in openly seeking from the government a war against Pakistan, bereft of the wisdom that war meant an open invitation to a holocaust. In order to pay back, India, however decided to conduct surgical strike against the militants allegedly waiting on the launch pads across the LoC, to pre-empt their attempt to infiltrate and conduct terrorist attacks in India. The alleged surgical strikes were accordingly carried out by Indian Special Forces on September 29, 2016 at various places across the LOC, as claimed by Indian DGMO. The surgical strikes were the outcome of not only the raves and rants and the undue hype created by the chest beaters and the hyper nationalists to avenge the Uri attack but these were also politically motivated. Though the details of the strikes are still unclear, yet the Indian press claimed that a score of terrorists were killed in the strikes. A good number of Pak army officials were either injured or killed and over a dozen of terror launch pads destroyed, as further claimed by them. Pakistan, for obvious reasons, dismissed the strikes as mere illusions as being far from truth. Pak army also took the media to these sites to discredit the Indian claim. Pakistan however admitted of cross border shelling having taken place on September 28, 2018 in which two Pak army men were killed and nine others of them injured. 

For want of authentication of details the Indian intelligentsia questioned the veracity of these strikes. The opposition political parties particularly the Congress and the AAP expressed reservations to accept them as being true for want of the evidence. Thus the credibility of strikes came under the shadow of doubt.  Were these really surgical strikes, as alleged by India or the cases of routine cross- border shelling, as claimed by Pakistan?  In order to arrive at a definite conclusion we have to find out difference between the two of them. 

The cross-border shelling is heavy fire of artillery to saturate an area rather than hit a specific target. It is a standoff and random attack which invariably lasts for longer period of time to cause collateral damage. The advance intelligence and therefore precision is not necessarily required in shelling. The random shelling causes havoc to the innocent civilians as compared to the army components. The people near the borders on either side live under the shadow of death. Many of them get killed, wounded and maimed in this mayhem. Their crops, cattle heads, grains and store items, the residential dwellings and cow sheds are severely damaged. Fearing for their lives they migrate to safer places leaving behind their paraphernalia to the mercy of shelling.  The migration causes mental agony and psychological damage to them. The irreparable physical damage and mental agony caused as such to them is dreadful. Cross-border shelling in fact assumes the significance of a war for these border people. As against this, surgical strike is intended to deal only with a specific target generally without any prior information.  It is carried out swiftly with an element of surprise and precision. It involves the causing of maximum damage to the intended target in a specific manner to avoid collateral damage. The surgical strike can be conducted through land, water or air depending up on the topographical position of the target and the convenience of the striking force.

The September 29, 2016 attacks were launched by the Indian forces in Poonch area, Leepa valley and Neelum valley as confirmed by BBC reporter M. Illyas Khan who toured the area to ascertain the facts, allegedly to frustrate the afore stated nefarious designs of militants. But possibly for lack of adequate and relevant intelligence about the presence or location of the terrorists and the terror launch pads, pre-requisite for surgical strikes, the Indian forces targeted the Pak army border posts instead, as reported by Mr. Khan. The strikes therefore miss the essential ingredient of specificity of the targets. So they cannot technically be called the surgical strikes. Further, the firing on the border posts was random which is substantiated by the fact that one mosque was also blown up in Leepa valley in the strikes. The strikes were therefore aimed at to saturate the area to cause collateral damage. The randomisation of the fire and the saturation of an area is a feature of border shelling and not of surgical strike. Therefore, it is safely concluded that by definition these were not surgical strikes. These are instead similar to the cases of cross- border shelling. The Indian special forces had crossed over the LOC up to more than one kilometre depth, as per the Illyas's reportage, so as to ensure that the posts are not only visible but also much within the effective firing  range of fire to tangibly cause intended damage. The forces would not cause any such damage to these posts from their present positions on the LOC as the posts on either side are strategically located far off from each other and duly camouflaged to be invisible to each other to avoided direct hit. This therefore might have compelled the Indian forces to walk up to a distance beyond the LOC to accurately target the posts for severe damages. The strikes as presumed were not heli-borne either probably the area is not conducive for such strikes. Woken up, though belatedly, to the surprise Indian forces' attack, the Pak army retaliated the fire heavily making the Indian forces to retreat swiftly but not before causing the death and injury to many Pak soldiers. Pakistan however officially admitted death of only two of their soldiers besides injury to nine of them. The extent of damage might have been more. BBC reporter also confirmed the damage to few Pak border posts in these areas and blowing up of a mosque in Leepa valley. However he could not confirm the presence of militants and the terror launch pads there in these areas and therefore any damage to them, as claimed by India.

 Needless to mention that this is not a new thing to happen. Similar types of strikes have occurred in the past also. In 2011, Pakistan army killed six Indian army men on the LOC and beheaded two of them in the same way, which was subsequently paid back by Indian forces in September, 2011 by killing seven Pak army men and beheading three of them as claimed by the Congress leaders, again in the same manner. The only difference between the earlier attacks and the new ones are that the present strikes got the newly coined  famed name, 'surgical strike' drawing parallels with the surgical strike code named 'Neptune Spear' conducted by USA Navy Seals in which Osama bin Laden was killed in  Pakistan's  Abottabad town and that these attacks received  huge publicity  for obvious reasons. It is therefore established beyond reasonable doubt that Indian forces conducted an operation on September 28, 2016 against the Pak targets in an effort to settle the score, but the strikes being surgical is a moot point. 

Anyway, rather than being dragged into the nomenclature game of the strikes arising out of deep hostilities between India and Pakistan the best option available for the two countries is to sit across the table for a meaningful dialogue to resolve their political and other outstanding issues peacefully in an environment of friendship. They say that while war is not a solution, dialogue is a way forward.

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