'We should hit Pakistan, continue to prepare for surgical strikes, continue to punish Pakistani posts in the proximity of the LoC and we should start adopting counter terrorist measures.'
'That should be India's action without escalating it to a full-fledged war,' Lieutenant General D B Shekatkar (retd) tells Archana Masih/Rediff.com
On the current situation on the Line of Control:
When the Indian Army lost 18 soldiers in Uri, it became unbearable for the nation. The Government of India was left with no other option but to retaliate.
The anger was so much that if the government did not retaliate, things would have gone wrong with the government itself.
On the surgical strikes:
In military parlance, this is a very planned action inside enemy territory or inside home territory where the smallest number of people take part but do the maximum damage.
A surgical strike does not last more than one hour, that is what we teach.
It is a hard, fast operation. I give you three examples of surgical strikes in the world.
Raid by Israel in Entebbe: They had to plan for two years for that raid, but it was conducted within 43 minutes and they got back.
The American killing of Osama bin Laden in Abottabad: The Americans knew about his presence in Abottabad for four years, but had to play for time and be 100% sure.
They had to buy people in Pakistan, including Pakistani generals. They created the exact replica of that area in the United States and practiced for one year by using helicopters etc.
When they were absolutely sure, they flew from the Bagram airfield in Afghanistan for 70 minutes into Pakistan.
They did this operation for exactly 21 minutes, killed Osama, took his dead body and flew back to Afghanistan for 70 minutes.
So for the actual surgical strike of 21 minutes, they prepared for nearly four-and-a-half years.
In exactly the same way, the decision was taken by the Government of India to retaliate.
The army found out the places where the terrorists camps were located and deliberately picked PoK though we know there are terrorist camps in Punjab also, near Lahore, Narowal, Muridke etc.
Why we picked up PoK was because it belongs to India. We said we are not hitting the Pakistan army though we knew Pakistan army elements are protecting these terrorists.
The group that took part in the surgical strikes must just be about 30, but to protect them in case things went wrong they would have kept 700 troops ready on our side. Even helicopters were kept ready.
The young soldiers who did this must be between 22 to 28 years old. Strict orders were given to not leave any dead body behind and bring the injured back.
They went on foot. With no one to guide them, they relied on technology. They massacred 40 odd people as they say. Pakistan can't hide the dead bodies.
As the bodies reach their loved ones, and as time passes, you cannot hide the sound of the wails of their families. Slowly it will build up.
The young soldiers were told you destroy and return. They must have not stopped to count the dead bodies.
There is no point doing a postmortem on how many died as long as none of our soldiers were lost.
On Pakistan's denial of the surgical strikes:
If they accept this fact, their government will be in trouble.
When Ajmal Kasab was caught in Mumbai, the government of Pakistan denied it.
They denied Pathankot. In Kargil they did not accept the dead bodies of their soldiers for three months.
They can never accept because it will show their army and government in poor light, but how long can they deny it?
On the demand for proof of the strikes from Opposition parties in India:
In an operation like this, you don't stop to count the dead, you just strike and return.
What proof do you want?
Should they have brought back some dead bodies? Then they would say you only got back two bodies and you say you killed 20?
Do you want CCTV footage?
Proof required in a court of law is not the proof that an army can produce.
This is not what happens in war and should not happen either.
This is foolishness of the part of the Opposition parties and I am not pleading for the government, but pleading for the army.
By putting a shadow of doubt on the army you have insulted and humiliated the whole Indian Army.
Young boys have risked their entire life, gone into Pakistan, hit the enemy hard and came back.
Tomorrow the young boys will think what an ungrateful nation this is.
On whether the army has presented proof before:
Never. I have been DGMO myself. I have conducted physical strikes myself, but a surgical strike of this type has happened for the first time after the 1971 war in PoK or Pakistan.
We have been hitting them once in a while where the local commanders take the risk, but this was a well planned, executed, coordinated, approved by the government physical strike.
After we lost our boys from the Dogra Regiment in an ambush in Manipur -- our army went into Burma for an operation.
The NSA and foreign secretary flew at night when the strike was already going on. They met the chief of the Myanmar army at night to convince him that we were dealing with terrorists, our insurgents who were in their country.
They were told that we had nothing against your people. Does that mean that the NSA and foreign secretary fly to Pakistan and meet Nawaz Sharif and tell him!
But exactly four hours after the strike, our DGMO made a public statement saying that he had just spoken to his counterpart in Pakistan with the spokesperson for external affairs sitting beside him.
Our DGMO won't lie that he has spoken to the Pakistan DGMO in front of the national and international media! But the government of Pakistan cannot accept it officially.
No nation in the world has questioned its armed forces on an operation like this. I don't know why we want to be an exception for political gains.
When you start doubting Narendra Modi, Manohar Parrikar, the DGMO, you are not doubting the individual, you are doubting the institution of the prime minister, the institution of the defence minister, the institution of the chief of the Indian Army.
What message are you sending?
On the ceasefire violations post the strikes and the attacks on Indian security forces:
We must make it clear to Pakistan and I am sure we have done it -- 'Don't provoke us to come again' -- and I am saying this very carefully.
Secondly, we should not hesitate to launch such strikes in the future also. It can be confined to PoK, including areas opposite Kargil -- Gilgit and Baltistan.
We must ensure that these strikes are only against terrorist camps -- not innocent people.
Even in this strike no civilian has died.
We should punish Pakistan army camps which are in the proximity of the LoC.
They are hitting us right from Pathankot, Sambha, Kathua, Jammu, Uri, Baramulla, Handwara.
On the terrorists waiting to enter India:
These are trained terrorists. If you keep them unoccupied, they will create problems in your own country.
We should not hesitate to hit them. Therefore, we have the right to respond to ceasefire violations.
Proxy war has to be fought by proxy mechanism only. Direct war is no answer to proxy war.
The Americans have failed, the Britishers have failed, the Russians have failed.
Terrorism has to be fought by counter-terrorism and counter-terrorism has a much wider arc of activity.
On the possibility of another India-Pakistan war:
The Pakistan army has been told by America not to make the mistake of fighting a conventional war with India.
Even China does not want Pakistan to fight with India because the Chinese have made huge investments in Pakistan in infrastructure.
But Pakistan's foreign and defence policy is based on anti-India sentiment. If they don't play that card, the survival of the government will be at stake and the survival of the government is the survival of the army.
Our policymakers must understand this loud and clear that Pakistan's anti-India policy will continue.
In the larger interest of India, war is not the right thing at the moment.
China and the US keep accusing each other on the South China Sea, but they will not fight a war because they are focused on the economy. This will keep China and America away from war.
India would like to focus on building its economy and infrastructure, Pakistan is not concerned about this, therefore they have adopted the philosophy of bleeding India through a thousand cuts.
A prosperous and militarily powerful India is not in Pakistan's interest.
Out of this grows the philosophy of cross-border terrorism, proxy war, or undeclared war to keep India internally busy, not to allow them to develop their forces and thereby a powerful army.
Capacity and capability for war needs time, therefore you need peace, so India is also not interested in fighting a war at this time.
Today war has become an extension of diplomatic policy.
Pakistan has been cautioned by both the US and China not to get into a conventional conflict with India, so they are outsourcing military diplomacy to the terrorists.
Terrorists have become the extension of Pakistan's army.
The Pakistan army has deliberately outsourced terrorism to the so-called non-State actors against India.
These non-State actors are born, raised, trained, motivated in Pakistan and tasked to put bombs and kill people.
They are a product of Pakistan and are an appendix to Pakistan's foreign and defence policy.
They want to keep us busy in northern Kashmir to prepare for a bigger hit in southern Kashmir near Jammu. They keep shifting the balance from right to left.
On what can be expected from the Pakistan army:
The Pakistan army will not make the mistake of sending even one soldier into our territory.
We should not respect the violation of the ceasefire, we should hit them, continue to prepare for surgical strikes, continue to punish Pakistani posts in the proximity of the LoC and we should start adopting counter terrorist measures.
That should be India's action without escalating it to a full-fledged war.
We have to be careful. We should hit them in their own territory like the Americans and Israelis. We should not allow them to come into our territory.
IMAGE: Soldiers take positions outside the government building in Pampore, Jammu and Kashmir, where terrorists were holed up. Photograph: S Irfan/PTI photo