Surgical and Other Strikes – What is Missing?

(Part I of a two-part series)

For decades, Indians wanted to strike terrorist camps in PoK but were disappointed because of India’s‘high moral ground’. Our ancient culture enunciates restraint, and given our proclivity to bask in that culture, a strike across the LoC seemed unlikely. History establishes that not one Indian king attacked the homes of those who invaded and looted us.

The surgical strike in September 2016 was not the first; many must follow. Yet, the jingoism displayed by non-military leadership and media is sad. The nation is misled into believing that we have achieved the impossible and Pakistan has been put in its place.

The Armed Forces would be the first ones to tell you this is far from the truth. We have not won a cricket tournament finale against Pakistan; there are many more to be played and won. When will our media and polity learn to hold their tongues and understand that difficulty lies not in capturing the fortress but in winning the campaign? Indians have not realised this about terrorism.

Why have the Army and the Air Force not done a surgical strike earlier?

Just because the Indian media did not know, our netas did not show off on TV, foreign leaders were silent and DG, Military Operations made no statement, it does not mean they have not. Even in this era of instant information, there are things ordinary Indians will never know, because they need not know, and more importantly, it is better that they do not know.

Too many Indians cannot use their ‘vivek’( judgement and discretion) when endowed with information. Journalists and netas are the largest of the lot, who take protection behind the Constitution where ‘freedoms are enshrined’ but forget the equally enshrined duties and obligations. Such citizens cause serious embarrassment and problems for the fauji by flaunting spiced-up information.

Indeed, the Armed Forces have struck across the LoC many times. Freedom of expression and right to information are restricted in areas of national security. Yet, as an Air Marshal reportedly advised on TV, the Indian Armed Forces need to give proof of their strikes only to Pakistan. If politicians need proof, they should accompany the Special Forces on their next strike. Any takers?

How many more times will we do it? 

As often as necessary and feasible. Pakistan’s vision is to bleed India with a thousand cuts. India’s Armed and Para-Military Forces will continue to conduct such operations as long as it takes to cleanse Pakistan of terrorists who attack India and the world.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces ask, when will the nation give faujis their deserved status? When will netas explicitly acknowledge that India’s Armed Forces have never tried to and do not wish to take over governance, as in Pakistan?

In the present system, our defence strategies are designed by the political leadership and bureaucracy, but its execution is the responsibility of the Armed Forces/Paramilitary.

Our strategists are men and women devoid of knowledge of and exposure to war and remain safe from bullets, but those who conduct the war and face the bullets are never asked for their opinion but are to die implementing that strategy. What an irony!

Does this happen anywhere else in the world? Our government should remedy this absurdity. When will Indians force the neta-babu duo to integrate Armed Forces into the Ministry of Defence so that it is the military, and not the bureaucracy, giving military inputs to our leaders, and surgical strikes are carried out smartly, professionally, deliberately, when militarily desirable, and in complete secrecy?

Industry, media, academia, artists, and public figures must appreciate the criticality of this integration for India’s safety and progress, only then can they galvanise themselves to demand it from the government. Media giants and icons have a sacred duty to debate this and educate Indians, for as long as the babu keeps the Armed Forces out of Ministry of Defence, India remains gravely vulnerable.

What About Our Non-State Actors?

Many have forgotten the violent protests in Mumbai against atrocities on Rohingyas in Myanmar. Academics, artists, writers, and thinkers have returned national awards protesting against restriction on freedoms. Trade and transport unions, employees of banks, railways, and government, political parties and even doctors frequently stage protests demanding benefits, successfully crippling normal life.

NGOs, many with questionable antecedents and dodgy finances, severely criticise law enforcement agencies for excesses against poor and allegedly defenceless protesters. Hundreds of people walk silently to protest rapes/abductions/murders/ gay and transgender discrimination. And finally, our supreme peaceniks who keep the candle industry alive, march to border posts with tears in their bleeding eyes, promising eternal peace.

Where are these inevitable defenders of freedom when terrorists kill our soldiers in Uri, Pathankot, Pulwama, Galwan? Can those who return awards find no time to jointly condemn terror attacks? Where are those who supported the Rohingyas? Are not your own countrymen more precious than those in Myanmar? We never hear of a morcha by NGOs, university students, journalists, politicians, and LGBT communities demanding the reorganisation of military-civilian equations and a boost to strategy, tactics, defence planning.

Not a word from religious figures and institutions. Are they not Indians – should they not publicly condemn the terrorists and their Pakistani protectors, and proudly glorify cross-border operations? Not a word either, from the castes and communities wanting reservations, but with no time, solidarity or applause for our soldiers and the cross-border strikes. Trade unions and industrial institutions and leaders are silent too – not a squeak from them and neither any event from them to thank the Armed Forces for doing what they have been demanding for decades.  

Do not indulge in chest thumping like the netas but be vocal in your pride for the Armed Forces. Civilians and industry can help with education of the children martyred soldiers and help their widows secure employment. Medals only adorn uniforms; civilians can do much more for soldiers and their families, with lasting results. This is also Corporate Social Responsibility and is of utmost need and urgency.

Yet, institutions like the BCCI, powerful enough to defy the Supreme Court, have neither praise for our operations, nor condemnation of incidences like Uri. All they want to do is to make money, to the point that playing even against Pakistan is acceptable. Shocking.

(Read Part II of the two-part series here)

Group Capt. Anant Bewoor VM (Gallantry)

Group Capt. Anant Bewoor has served with the Indian Air Force for 30 years. He was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal for Gallantry in 1990. Since retirement, he has worked with Onward Technologies Ltd. for 22 years in Pune, India.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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1 comment

  1. In India,

    1. The civil-military dynamic is broken. The military looks down on civilians as uninformed – hence, refuses to nurture any nascent civilian grand-strategy analytical ecosystem, outside the military. And yet, the military is constitutionally dependent on those uninformed civilians to determine procurement and grand strategy.

    2. The lack of a civilian grand-strategy ecosystem means there is little civilian interest (among students or civil society at large) in the nuances of defense issues and foreign policy – as there is no credible civilian/military shared space to talk about these issues, which feeds back into point 1.

    3. You don’t have to stop protesting police brutality to be more aware of national defence. Jingoism often passes for patriotism in India. The author gives in to this error when he opines that civil rights issues and military issues compete for the same space in civil discourse, in a zero-sum manner. Military policy, grand strategy, foreign policy discourse neatly co-exist alongside civil rights matters in most developed democracies.

    I’d highly recommend Ajai Shukla’s blog (http://ajaishukla.blogspot.com) to anybody who is interested in a civilian-friendly primer on defense policy.

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