The responses of the political opposition to the successful surgical strike carried out by our para commandos on terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LOC) have ranged from being somewhat reasonable to strangely weird. While hailing the achievement as a great feat of the Indian Army, opposition leaders, with a couple of exceptions, refused to put on record their appreciation of the leadership of the government for showing the courage to call Pakistan’s bluff on cross border terrorism. It is difficult to believe that these leaders did not know that a planned armed offensive across our borders would always be the outcome of three things—decisiveness of the political executive headed by the Prime Minister of the day, fail-safe intelligence furnished by our agencies on which the decision would be anchored, and of course the strength and operational brilliance displayed by our armed forces in executing the plan cleared at the national level.
It cannot be denied that all these years the Pakistan army and the ISI were being allowed to get away with unleashing terrorist violence in Kashmir and elsewhere without the governments of the day in India ever putting Pakistan on notice. Even an assault like 26/11 did not get the then government to put India-Pakistan talks on the back burner. Earlier, India gifted the card of deniability to Pakistan at the Havana summit by granting it “shared victimhood” in terms of terrorism; this the latter used in all subsequent attacks including Mumbai, Pathankot and even Uri. Policymakers and their advisers in India were obviously ignorant of the antecedents of the militant outfits used by Pakistan ISI as the instrument of cross border terrorism against India. It is only in the Narendra Modi regime that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj forcefully told the UNGA not to make any distinction between “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists”, which was clearly a message for the United States too.
India showed great strategic clarity by telling the world that the surgical strikes by the Indian Army were against cross border terrorists and that this country had no intention of initiating a war from its side. The Indian opposition ought to have appreciated the leadership of the government for bringing the external and internal security parameters under control, while effectively executing a military action deep inside POK. This operation was different from the response—on earlier occasions—of spontaneously taking retaliatory firing to the other side of the border in reply to a provocation.
India showed great strategic clarity by telling the world that the surgical strikes by the Indian Army were against cross border terrorists and that this country had no intention of initiating a war from its side.
The opposition chose first to project the surgical strikes as something done by the Army independently of the government and then in a clumsy attempt to deny any credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi even raised doubts about the fact of any such operation having been carried out at all. A prominent leader even suggested openly that the Indian Army was possibly lying about the whole operation. This looked like a seditious statement. Again, on the Prime Minister’s participation in the symbolic burning of Ravana on Dussehra in Lucknow, where the organisers had projected the demon as the “evil of terrorism”, which that had to be rooted out, many opposition leaders chose to object to the slogan of Jai Shri Ram raised by the PM on the conclusion of his short address. Modi’s address had minimal political content and was devoted to the theme of Ramayan befitting the religious occasion and its criticism, therefore, was clearly out of line. The critics gave the impression of wanting to increase their access to a vote bank.
The Indian Army action is the outcome of a switch in India’s Pakistan policy from a weak-kneed stance in Kashmir in the name of “strategic constraint”, to a transparent approach of stern reciprocity towards a recalcitrant neighbour. Unsurprisingly, this has brought many apologists of Pakistan, including some professionals, to the fore with their arguments and writings designed to blame India’s handling of Kashmir for the recent disturbances in the valley. They just refuse to see that ever since the Modi government became firm that talks and terror did not go together, the Pakistan army and ISI stepped up the infiltration of terrorists into Kashmir and used their agents in the valley to organise stone pelting mobs to create instability. They forget that in the wake of the success of the anti-Soviet armed campaign in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s ISI had decided to replicate the Afghan jihad in Kashmir by sending in the Mujahideens of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Muhammad and in the process had made the Hizbul Mujahideen (of Burhan Wani fame) subservient to Hafiz Saeed. An entirely new level of subversion instigated by Pakistan was in play in Kashmir and any suggestion that Kashmir was witnessing some kind of a “revolution from within” sounded like an endorsement of Nawaz Sharif’s line on Kashmir “intifada”.
What Kashmir needs is a corruption-free and service oriented administration and the retrieval of Kashmiriyat from Mujahideen extremism. The opposition parties had unanimously hailed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for his successful visit to Srinagar where he first struck a stern note against separatists and other apologists of Pakistan. There is no reason why this political unity should not remain intact after the game-changing surgical strike made by our Army on terror launch pads across LOC.
D.C. Pathak is a former Director, Intelligence Bureau