India’s ‘surgical-strikes’ against Pakistan:What are the aims and who is real-audience?  


The Indian Army has claimed that it carried out “ surgical strikes” against “terrorist launch pads” in Pakistan. According to the Army DGMO, “significant casualties” resulted from these strikes. These strikes happened after the respective addresses by Nawaz Sharif and Sushma Swaraj at the UNGA.India’s Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley tweeted that India was proud of its armed forces for having taken “ pre-emptive action….”. Pakistan,  while admitting the death of two soldiers, on its part, rubbished India’s claim of a surgical strike and claimed that India traded fire at various points on the Line of Control(LoC). While the nature of the strike is unclear at this point in time and is clouded by what Clausewitz called the “ fog of War”, our analysis would , given paucity of evidence and clarity, we would call the strike as a “ limited probe” than a surgical strike. We would also assert that the nature of the strike appears to be more political than military. The premises for the attack appear to be multiple. We will isolate the most salient ones here and assert that the Indian state is, one, signalling to Pakistan about the state’s tolerance threshold. That is, India will not tolerate “infiltration” or other forms of attack anymore. Two, the attack or limited probe sates the public’s calls and desire for revenge and retribution against Pakistan in the wake of the Uri attacks. At one fell swoop, the BJP led government does what people in India want it to do( albeit in a limited frame) and improves its ratings so to speak. Three, it appears that another audience for the attacks is the international community. India, appears to be demonstrating that its “ strategic restraint” should not be taken for granted and that it too can escalate and retaliate beyond a point.



All this means that, unless hot heads and reckless people prevail on either sides, neither “ total” nor “ limited war will happen. Neither India nor Pakistan can, realistically, afford war at this point in time. Pakistan is in consolidation phase; if it escalates, it will lose focus on the internal security front and there will be repercussions for the country internationally. India cannot throw a spanner into the works of its economic growth and other global security reasons will militate against a full blown war. In prosaic, terms the price of onions can shoot upto 500 Rupees per Kg. This is not a facile indicator; it has economic(interest rates, capital flows, inflationary and other consequences) and political implications which can pull pack India –globally and locally.




KO contends that regardless of the reasons for what we have called a “limited probe”, it is ill conceived and flawed. We believe that all war is bad politics. That the probe or attack has been carried out reflects bankruptcy of political imagination and ideas. What was and is essentially a political issue has unnecessarily been militarized. The issue is the conflict in and over Kashmir. If political will and imagination had been mustered to arrive at some sort of a resolution of the conflict, things would not have come to this pass. If there are people who gloat at the strikes , they are being vainglorious, silly and foolish; not prudent. Strategically and military, the strikes makes no sense other than the reasons delineated here which, in the final analysis, are meant to extract political mileage and not strategic advantage.


It may also be stated that the lack of strategic depth and alacrity on part of strategists, planners and the political class manifests itself in the form of truculence and now belligerent bellicosity. Why, for instance, worry more about infiltration when the major issue is or will , in all likelihood , be exfiltration- the recrudescence of militancy in Kashmir where thousands of young Kashmiris might be tempted to take to the gun again? Why not address this alienation than propose or posture for war?  Strange, it appears, is the mindset and politico- strategic calculus of strategists on this side of the border.



KO maintains that “total war”- with full mobilization of resources and where everything and everyone will be a target- will NOT happen between India and Pakistan. What may happen is war games and war posturing akin to the ones that happened after the attacks on the Parliament in 2001. But the structuring context is different this time. In all likelihood, the “war frenzy” and hype will die down after powers that be make “right” noises and some Modus Vivendi will be reached between India and Pakistan. What , however, is sadly and tragically ironical about the whole saga is that Kashmir and Kashmiris will continue to suffer and pay a price for a conflict which is not their making but because of which they are in the throes of  existential travails. The route to peace and peacable relations between India and Pakistan and an end to the sufferings for Kashmiris lie through Kashmir- that is, the resolution of the conflict to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. Do powers that be understand this? And will they do something about it?


Yes and No is the answer. This constitutes a tragedy- especially for Kashmiris!

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