How Modi convinced India to celebrate a ‘surgical strike’ that never actually happened

Published: October 3, 2018
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An Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldier looks through binoculars during a patrol at the India-Pakistan border in R.S Pora, southwest of Jammu, on October 3, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Sparta, a warrior city in ancient Greece, was known for the ferocity of its soldiers. But while its soldiers might have been the best in the ancient world, its citizens were not far behind when it came to verbal jibes, particularly one-liners. For instance, Philip II of Macedon, father to Alexander the Great, had conquered almost every other Greek city-state. Sparta was the only one left, and that too, a relatively weak state without walls. Obviously, Philip II dispatched a messenger who delivered the Macedonian King’s message,

“If I invade Lakonia you will be destroyed, never to rise again.”

The Spartans sent back a one-worded response:

If.”

In a similar vein, under the Narendra Modi government, India often taunts Pakistan with threats of a ‘surgical strike’. However, this bluff is only meant to appease its own citizens and reap electoral dividends for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). If India had really wanted to conduct surgical strikes within Pakistani territory, then it would have done so after the Mumbai attacks of 2008, for which it blamed Pakistan. It especially would have done so after the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, for which too it blamed Pakistan.

In 2002, India amassed half a million troops on the Pakistani border, in the kind of mobilisation only seen during the World Wars, and yet it did not conduct a surgical strike. So how is it possible that India would conduct a surgical strike now, when the stakes are nearly not as high?

There is more or less a military parity between India and Pakistan, both on a conventional and especially at a sub-conventional level. Modi’s handpicked successor and notorious puppet, General Bipin Rawat, is aware of this. He also knows that India’s armed forces may be numerically superior, but Pakistan’s armed forces are battle hardened after almost a two-decade-long war on terror, and are prepared to react instantly to any kind of provocation.

Both military and political leaders in India understand that if they conduct a surgical strike within Pakistan, which is a violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, it would lead to an equal – if not greater – response from the Pakistani side. It may even result in outright war, with the real possibility of a nuclear Armageddon, if matters continue to escalate.

Therefore, it is easier for the Indian political class to celebrate a faux anniversary of a faux surgical strike, rather than actually intrude into Pakistani territory. ‘Parakram Parv’ is the name given to the three-day celebration commemorating India’s surgical strike inside Pakistan, in which Indian armed forces supposedly smashed numerous terrorist camps in Azad Kashmir.

It is hilarious how the first anniversary of this fake surgical strike was never celebrated, yet the BJP government celebrated the second anniversary of this non-existent attack with pomp and circumstance. Anyhow, what’s more important is to understand that there was no surgical strike to begin with – it was all simply hype and drama from India’s side.

During previous governments, India would always try to hide its incursions across the Line of Control (LoC), but I suppose Modi derives some kind of sadistic pleasure from flaunting and exaggerating his army’s blatant violations of the LoC. The LoC is a very ill-defined border in an inaccessible and wildly cold terrain on both sides of Kashmir, which both the Pakistani and Indian armies cross at will to attack the other’s forward posts.

The LoC violations in any given year are so numerous that most of them go unreported. What happened on September 29, 2016 was something similar, but this time around the Indian army’s LoC violations and attacks on forward Pakistani posts were more coordinated, and a large number of posts were attacked at the same time in the wee hours of the morning.

Indian troops struck in the Madarpur-Titrinot region of the Poonch sector in the Leepa and Neelum valleys. In some areas, they ventured a kilometre each inside Pakistani territory. Two Pakistani soldiers were killed while offering their fajr prayers. However, once Pakistan learnt of the attacks, the reprisal was swift, and Indian troops were sent scampering to their bunkers.

No commandos, however, were air-dropped into the alleged “launching pads of militants” inside Azad Kashmir; nothing like the Navy Seal Team Six operation was carried out. However, I must applaud Modi’s government for its creative propaganda; they are giving Joseph Goebbels a run for his money. They created such media frenzy over a routine LoC violation that now even Bollywood is releasing a movie soon, titled Uri, which much like any other Bollywood flick, is an un-creative, over imaginative imitation of Zero Dark Thirty.

In fact, the Modi administration propagates such a virulent anti-Pakistan image of itself in the media and amongst the masses that they cannot even be seen talking to their political counterparts in Pakistan. After all, India and Pakistan were scheduled to have a really constructive dialogue on the side steps of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), to mark the start of the new beginning promised by Imran Khan. But alas, it was not to be.

Sushma Swaraj pulled out of her meeting with Shah Mehmood Qureshi, citing printing of Burhan Wani’s postage stamps and the killing of Indian security personnel in occupied Kashmir. However, both these incidents happened before India accepted Imran’s invitation for talks. Yet these excuses were made as a pretext to withdraw from what in prior was always seen as a routine and perfunctory meeting. Their Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) might be able to come up with excuses out of thin air in order to avoid talks with Pakistan, but this entire episode merely shows that the BJP-led government is very evidently not serious about peace talks with Pakistan.

Granted, Qureshi’s speech after the Indian rejection was aggressive, going to the extent of blaming India for the Army Public School (APS) attack, but the intention behind his speech must be understood. Pakistan genuinely wants to extend a hand of peace towards India, and Modi has a better shot of ensuring good relations with Pakistan for at least the short-term under Imran, because the military and the government are finally on the same page, unlike their apparent dislike of former Premier Nawaz Sharif. Modi, however, doesn’t think about the prosperity of the future generations of the subcontinent. All he wants to do is appeal to his party’s and country’s far right in order to win the next election, even if it comes at the cost of peace.

Shajeel Zaidi

Shajeel Zaidi

The author works in alternative financing on Wall Street, and has a fascination with modern history and politics. He tweets as @shajboi (twitter.com/shajboi) and can also be found on Instagram as shajboi (www.instagram.com/shajboi/)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shadab

    Pathetic article. Why is Pakistan behind peace talks all of a sudden? Why this urgency? What and whom is it trying to impress with all this antics? If Indians dont want to talk to us, forget it. We have immediate concerns to take care of (water, debt etc). Why should we beg them? If they are celebrating an imaginary war, let them. As far as we know the truth, who cares. Why are we being so childish. Let us be mature and take care of our own first. Our government should focus on creatong jobs, providing education etc. I think nothing has changed in “Naya Pakistan”. Our policies especially foreign have always been kneejerk .Recommend

  • Green Passport

    Not only Modi, almost all world leaders have used Pakistan during their local elections.
    Bush: war on terror.
    Obama: OBL
    Trump: sanctions on Pakistan.
    It is not them that we should blame, but ourselves. If modi claims an imaginary war, not only Indians but most of the world would buy it because of our image. Tell me if any of our leaders (past, present and future) says our country has nothing to do with terrorism (fact) would the world believe it? If Indians don’t want to talk, so be it. Why should our leaders behave like a lost puppy?Recommend

  • Greywolf

    Well written shajeel!Recommend

  • Striver

    Great article but a few errors and omission to point out if I may.

    Referring to you last paragraph, about time Pakistan put the record straight. It was necessary to remind the public of the facts (presented to the UN already). People have short memories.

    Now referring to you second last paragraph. You have implied Pakistan was responsible for the killing of the soldier. You should have elaborated that the soldier was in fact killed by a soldier from his own unit. Pakistan helped the Indians find the body of this soldier.Recommend

  • qayyumabro

    Bang on target.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    Expecting any sanity from indian side same as expecting sanity from Trump. the whole World makes fun of Trump but he has power. Unfortunately india has followed American footsteps and considers themselves as Trump or American bully of this region. Too bad they won’t achieve anything with this.Recommend

  • vijay2day

    Pakistan may call it a fake strike but what about ‘satellite’ pics, can they be fake? What about the statements of the people living in those areas where the strikes took place, they all are confirming the activity. Also Pakistan had caught one Indian soldier during the operation, what about that?Recommend

  • Kulsoom

    Well written informative article, puts Modi’s warmongering braggadocio to shame. This Hindu railway chaiwala is going to get a lot of his people in killed should Pakistan finally loses patience with his blind belligerence backed by hot air and stupidity.Recommend

  • Ali Faraz Haque

    Yes absolutely correct, what about all that and while we are on the topic of what abouts, what about Kulbhushan Yadav?Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Modi is a simpleton. The military dictator of India Gen Bipin Rawat ordered Modi to spread the Surgical Strike fantasy story.Recommend

  • Sheeraz

    Crossing the LOC onto the other side by a couple of KMs happens all year round from both sides. That does not equate to surgical strike. Surgical strike constitute going deep within the enemy territory either via helicopter drop or on foot then doing the raids and returning back. We know both of these couldn’t have possibly happened since helicopters would’ve been detected and shot down and the foot on raid isn’t possible since it would entail Indian soldiers to climb the steep hills back to their side of the LOC and would’ve been a suicidal mission. What India did was set up their guns on top of ridges over looking the LOC. They did catch our army by surprise at a few points since the attacks at certain places were a first a historically had never been targeted.
    The Modi government and the State sponsored Indian media is making a fool out of the people to hide the corruption allegations on the Modi Government and his pathetic performance as a PM during his tenure and that’s precisely why they didn’t celebrate the strikes the first year but this time they did. Indians being Indians falling for the antics of the Government yet again.Recommend

  • vijay2day

    Ask the International Court of Justice (World Court) who threw your arguments on Kulbhushan Yadav in the dustbin and upheld India’s argument. Do you remember…Recommend