Clear the air over surgical strikes

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The authenticity of the ‘surgical strikes’ inside Pakistan Administered Kashmir is being increasingly questioned in India. After the top Congress leader P Chidambaram, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, another Congress leader Sanjay Nirupama has raised questions about the strikes. Nirupama went to the extent of calling the strikes fake, something that has raised the hackles in BJP. The party has accused the three leaders of questioning the Army and playing into the hands of Pakistan. Kejriwal  has shot back and asked why BJP was “rattled”. In a cleverly recorded video, Kejriwal congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the bold decision but sought a proof of the attack to counter “Pakistan’s propaganda” that the attack hadn’t taken place.

 

In fact, Pakistan took a busload of the Pakistani and international journalists to   two forward positions on their side of the LoC to show them that there were “no surgical strikes” conducted by the Indian Army on terrorist launchpads and it was only cross border firing. Interestingly, the CNN journalist who was a part of the group did a story which more or less corroborated the Pakistani version.  The claim of the surgical strikes has since run into controversy, with Opposition parties seeking proof to set at rest the doubts that have been created.  But the Government  has so far baulked at releasing the footage.  The reluctance has further fed into the creeping suspicions. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad attacked Congress leaders  and Kejriwal for strengthening the case of Pakistan. The Government’s position is that it will decide whether or when to share evidence of the strikes. The source based stories in the media have revealed that the footage and stills have been recorded through drones.

 

In all this, what seems apparent is that the Government has tried to hide behind the argument that we should trust the Army. While that is fine and questioning Army might appear difficult to people, it does nothing to detract from Pakistan’s denial of the attack. In fact, this only strengthens Islamabad’s position on the issue and gives it a wider resonance across the world. 

 

Besides, the argument that the Army should not be questioned is disingenuous in nature. By claiming the political ownership of the surgical strikes, BJP has associated the  attack with itself and will as a result draw a political mileage from it. Already the unprecedented media hype around the strike has burnished Modi’s image. While no one should grudge the PM his moment of glory, the doubts fanned about the attack  by Pakistan have irreparably dented its success. The reasoning that releasing the footage of the attack will expose Pakistan’s lie and force it to respond doesn’t wash. New Delhi has officially owned the attack, with Director General of Military Operation Lt Gen Ranbir Singh and spokesperson of the Ministry  of External Affairs Vikas Swarup, no less,  holding a press conference to the effect. This has been followed by a raucous media spectacle in celebration of the attack and some triumphalist statements from the senior BJP ministers including the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar  who said that after surgical strikes “Pakistan was under anaesthesia”. So, if Pakistan has to retaliate, India’s ownership of the attack is enough for it to do so. And it will also claim a justification for doing so.

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