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October 3, 2016

The myth of India's surgical strike
on Pakistan-controlled Kashmir

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The Pakistan army has dismissed claims that India's military conducted "surgical strikes" against "terrorist units" on its side of the border in Kashmir region. Pakistan rejected the claims as an "illusion" but acknowledged the loss of two of its soldiers in the exchange of fire that also wounded nine others on September 29, 2016.

"There had been cross border fire initiated and conducted by India which is [an] existential phenomenon," said an Inter-Services Public Relations statement released shortly after the Indian director-general of military operations held a press conference making claims about surgical strikes.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.

Tension remains high between the neighbours following the killing of 18 Indian soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir on September 18.

The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi,  has been under intense pressure from his own party and the Indian public to respond to the Uri army base attack. Mr Modi came to power pledging to toughen India’s response to what he calls cross-border incursions from Pakistan. He vowed earlier this month that the Uri raid “will not go unpunished”.

Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh, the Indian director-general of military operations, said the "surgical strikes" were launched following "very specific and credible information that some terrorist units had positioned themselves to infiltrate". "Significant casualties have been caused to these terrorists and those who are trying to support them," Singh said.

Interestingly, on September 21, an Indian online media, TheQuint.com claimed that two units of the army's elite 2 Paras conducted the operation in the Uri sector and attacked three militant camps in Pakistan controlled Kashmir. "Two units of the elite 2 Paras comprising 18-20 soldiers flew across the LoC in the Uri sector in military helicopters and carried out an operation that killed at least 20 suspected terrorists across three terror camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)." The operation happened during the intervening hours of 20 September and 21 September, according to The Quint.

However, Indian Army sources denied reports in a web magazine that Indian forces had crossed over the Line of Control near Uri to avenge the killing of 18 of its soldiers killed in Uri. The Times of India quoted the Indian Army sources as saying that no such action had been undertaken and the account was incorrect.

Earlier, Sreeram Chaulia, of the Jindal School of International Affairs in New Delhi, said there was a sense of satisfaction in India following the cross-border strikes. "A lot of people here are elated in many ways that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has authorised this kind of bold action," he told Al Jazeera. "India has been accused of being soft and unable to respond, but for the first time we're seeing a bolder initiative from the government and the military."

Japanese report questions India's claim

A Japanese magazine has questioned the Indian claim of conducting surgical strikes on Pakistani territory, maintaining India does not have capacity to do so. The Diplomat magazine has carried an article under the title: "Is India Capable of a Surgical Strike in Pakistan Controlled Kashmir?" 

The article is written by  Shawn Snow, who raised few questions about India's capability to conduct any surgical strike on Pakistan soil. "A surgical strike operation by Indian forces begs the question of whether Indian forces have the capability to launch such a sophisticated and coordinated attack," Snow wrote in the magazine. 

Giving information about the surgical strikes, it says, that the 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.

It also raised doubts on India's airborne, artillery based precision guided strikes, or ground force based assaults.

"India is still on the cusp of building a sophisticated and modernized asymmetrical capability to conduct counterterror operations, while much of its forces are still organized and trained on Cold War models," the report said. 

Commenting over the air defense system of Pakistan, the report said: "Furthermore, a cross border air raid by either heli-borne assets or drones would still prove exceedingly difficult as Pakistan boasts an incredibly impressive air defense system."

"Pakistan controlled Kashmir is a high threat area for shoulder fired surface to air missiles, some of which have found their way into the hands of militant groups. Any air operation over the territory would be under threat from these weapon systems," the report observed. 

Raising further doubts about the operation, it said India has released little detail on the operation.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said at a daily press briefing that the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) had not “directly observed” any firing.

UN chief offers to mediate between India, Pakistan

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has offered to act as a mediator between India and Pakistan to help the nuclear-armed neighbours resolve their disputes, as he urged both nations to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions in the region.

"The Secretary-General is deeply concerned over the significant increase in tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of the recent developments, in particular the reported cease-fire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) following an attack on an Indian army base in Uri on September 18," a statement issued by Ban's spokesperson said here on Friday.

The statement said the UN Chief urges both sides to "exercise maximum restraint" and take "immediate steps to de-escalate the situation".

Ban said his good offices are available, "if accepted by both sides", as he called on the Governments of Pakistan and India to address their outstanding issues, including Kashmir, "peacefully through diplomacy and dialogue."

According to the Security Council mandate given in resolution 307 of 1971, the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) observes and reports on ceasefire violations along and across the Line of Control and the working boundary between the South Asian neighbours in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as reports developments that could lead to ceasefire violations.

According to Al Jazeerah the Indian-administered part of the territory has a Muslim majority and there are a number of armed separatist groups fighting Indian rule. Tensions had already been high in Kashmir valley since the Indian army killed a young Kashmiri separatist commander in a gun battle in early July, setting off a series of protests that have left more than 80 people dead and thousands injured.

Indian Muslim political party urges against war with Pakistan

Alarmed by the mounting tension between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), a leading Indian Muslim political party, urged India to avoid war with Pakistan. JIH Saturday said both nations must show "wisdom and sincerity" in order to resolve their issues.

"Jamaat feels both India and Pakistan must show wisdom and sincerity using the path of dialogue and consultation in order to resolve their issues," President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umari, said at a press conference in New Delhi.

"War is not a panacea for our problems. India must take all steps to avoid war with Pakistan," Umari said.

Umari also condemned the attack at an army camp in Uri town of Jammu and Kashmir and expressed grief over the deaths of soldiers in the attack.

Meanwhile, Muslim groups in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow and Agra towns celebrated the success of Indian Army’s "surgical strikes" operation across LoC after Friday Prayer.

Local community leaders gathered at Lucknow’s Eidgaah and applauded the success of Army, Financial Express reported.

Some of the groups even raised banners showing their praise and support to the Indian Army. The operation was also applauded in city’s Islamic center where people also prayed for the well-being of the Jawans.

Fireworks were also carried out in several parts of the city to celebrate the moment.

Along with Lucknow, community leaders in the city of Agra, Kanpur and Allahabad also celebrated and distributed sweets make the occasion special. Indian Army on Wednesday night conducted surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC), exactly 10 days after the Uri terror attack.

A group of Muslims held a rally in support of India and the Army after Friday prayers in Dankaur village of Greater Noida, Times of India reported. Holding placards and banners, they marched in the village and expressed their support to the country.

Local people also raised pro-India and anti-Pak slogans and burnt Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif's effigy. Around 200 people joined the rally and visited different spots and market areas and returned to the same spot. The people also burnt the effigy of Nawaz Sharif.

Nasir Hussain, a local resident, said that usually people suspect the loyalty of Muslims in a situation like war with Pakistan. Local Muslims offered prayer and then conducted a rally from Tauliyan Masjid to the village.

The Muslim reaction came amid growing Hindu Extremism in India under Modi’s Administration. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come into power in May 2014, BJP’s discriminatory policies towards Indian Muslims have alarmed the 180 million Indian Muslim community.

According to J.S. Bandukwala Indian Muslims are in a state of panic because of the unfortunate role of Hindutva fanatics in the last two years such as Ghar wapsi (forced conversion of Muslims to Hindu faith), Go to Pakistan taunt to Muslims and Maharashtra's ban on beef eating. Likewise, Bahu Lao, Beti Bachao programs (this is a campaign planned by Hindu outfit Bajrang Dal to encourage young Hindu men to marry non-Hindu girls), compulsory education of Geeta, Maha Bharat and Hindu literature in educational institutes and killing many Muslims in the name of religion or false allegations of eating beef are the actions intended to promote cultural violence in the all segments of Indian society.

Under BJP administration, Muslims and other religious minorities are threatened as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Dharm Jagran Samiti (DSJ) has a plan of ethnic cleansing of all Muslims and non-Muslims before 2021 census.

According to a report produced by a committee led by a former chief justice of India, Rajender Sachar, Muslims are now worse off in India than the Dalits, or those once called untouchables. Some 52 per cent of Muslim men are unemployed, compared with 47 per cent of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91 per cent are unemployed, compared with 77 per cent of Dalit women.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com