Operation Ginger, which is currently in news as India’s “surgical strike” in 2011, was a local sub-tactical raid, veteran Army officials have told The Sunday Guardian. As the controversy over India’s surgical strikes in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir refuses to die down, with the news on Operation Ginger making waves, The Sunday Guardian questioned Army veterans who held important positions in the Ministry of Defence and also served extensively at the Line of Control (LoC), about them. The differences between Operation Ginger and the recent surgical strikes by India are many, veterans pointed out. They also emphasised that sub-tactical raids were carried out quite a few times by the Indian forces in the past.
The level of planning, the layers of authorities involved in planning, co-ordinating and executing the strike, the scope of the strike and its impact are some of the major factors distinguishing a surgical strike. To begin with, Operation Ginger was planned at the local command level. The forces penetrated not more than 300 metres inside LoC, whereas the recent surgical strikes identified eight terrorist launch pads spread across the length of a massive 250 km along the LoC, from Rajouri in the south to Kupwara in the north. The forces penetrated as deep as five to eight kilometres inside LoC and carried out synchronised attacks with clock-work precision, Army sources said.
“The recent surgical strikes were New Delhi-driven, large-scale operations where Special Forces were roped in. They were synchronised at Service Headquarters and National Security Adviser level, utilising NTRO satellites and UAV assets,” Major General (Retd) G.D. Bakshi said. He is a combat veteran and specialist in counter-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.
Moreover, during a local raid, not more than 30-50 soldiers cross over. During the recent surgical strikes, more than 200 Special Forces commandos crossed over to the other side. “This was done when the Pakistan army was on full-scale alert mode. We impeccably implemented a superb tactical operation of stealth without letting any casualty on our side,” he added.
WHAT IS A SURGICAL STRIKE?
“There are three important aspects of a surgical strike. A surgical strike is causing specific damage that will demonstrate to the enemy three things: a) shows our resolve that we are prepared to strike back hard where it hits the most; b) that we are prepared professionally to carry out such an attack despite the capability of the enemy; and c) that the impact of the strike is felt at a strategic level, even if the strike is tactical in nature,” Lieutenant General (Retired) Vinayak Patankar told The Sunday Guardian from Pune. He is a war veteran and has served on various important positions including as Director at the Military Operations Directorate. He has also served at the LoC for over 15 years of his 40-year career in the Army.
Surgical strikes are conducted to demonstrate capability to hit a specific target, which hurts the enemy the most, he said. This is a primary factor, he said, adding that a surgical strike is much more than pure domination and revenge.
“The other aspect is that the impact of a surgical strike is strategic, though it may have been planned at a tactical or operational level. For such an action, clearance has to be taken from the highest level,” he added. Recently, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in Mumbai that the strike has caused a paradigm shift in the country’s perception and response. “Till now, our response was predictable. And they knew it. One of the reasons why the strike was so successful was because they had predicted our predictable response. Now, the greatest weapon in our armour is unpredictability. These strikes have established that our response will be unpredictable from now on. And that is a paradigm shift from the past,” he said.
“During all other operations done in previous times, political directions were neither sought, nor given. The raids were done for local domination, revenge. So, to say that we have done surgical strikes in the past will be wrong,” Patankar said.
The planning of the strike included several high-level meetings of the three Service chiefs along with the Prime Minister, Defence Minister, intelligence chiefs, National Security Advisor and a handful other important officials. “I used to switch off the phone and keep it 20 metres away during the meetings to discuss the strike. After everything was decided, let me tell you, I could barely sleep on the night between 28 and 29 September,” Parrikar recently said in Mumbai. For the reconnaissance of the prospective area of attack, UAVs were launched. NTRO satellites were also pressed into service for getting details of the targets at various points in time.
“There were eight terrorist launch pads adjacent to the Army posts in PoK. The terrorists used to go to the Army posts at night and observe our movements. Then, the Pakistani force would open fire at the Indian side so the terrorists could sneak inside our country. These buildings housing the terrorists were identified during the recce,” Bakshi said.
“Looking at the criteria of a strategic strike, we need to look at whether Operation Ginger fulfilled any of them as brought out by the media. Was it done to hit a target to cause specific damage to the country? No. Why was it done then? Operation Ginger was driven by the idea of revenge. They came and did something which affected the morale of our men. There was need for an offensive defence, which boosted the morale of our men and established our domination. It was a local action undertaken by the local leadership. The government was informed later about it,” Patankar said. Operation Ginger was a local retaliation raid conducted to avenge the deaths of our soldiers. Its impact on the enemy was by no means strategic, he pointed out.
“Local raids have been conducted quite a few times in the past to avenge the deaths of our soldiers. They were tactical in nature and were conducted at the commanding officer level,” Bakshi said.