« Back to articlePrint this article

How our commandos delivered the message at Pakistan's door

September 30, 2016 11:31 IST

'The Pakistanis were lulled adequately to provide one of the fundamental prerequisites for successful execution of such an option: Surprise.'
'The other requisite: Deception in terms of selection of areas for launch/time of offensive action,' explains Brigadier S K Chatterji (retd).

Soldiers in Lachipora, Uri, Jammu and Kashmir. Photograph: Umar GanieFor decades Indians have awaited a response like the one that the Indian Army delivered on the night of September 28/29, 2016 to the Pakistanis.

The blow was delivered in pitch darkness when most of the jihadis in the launch pads were in deep slumber. It was a tonic for a nation smarting after a string of attacks deep on its soil.

Apparently, about 200 Special Forces spearheaded the attack. The objectives were shallow, barely 500 to 2,000 metres across the Line of Control.

The arc of operations covered areas opposite south Kashmir, the Pir Panjal and Shamsabari ranges that delineate the opponent's positions in a sector where it has been no war, no peace for ages.

There were a total of eight objectives. So close to the Line of Control, they are unlikely to be training camps of jihadis. More likely, they were the final staging areas/launch pads for launching these mercenaries across to the Indian side.

The fact that the Special Forces have inflicted over 38 casualties gives an idea about the number of well paid, trained jihadi fighters that Pakistan had readied to rock the Kashmir valley.

In a display of pure professionalism, the commandos extricated without losing a man. The tradition that goes along with the Special Forces, invokes its men to back bring their dead. Fortunately, nobody had to be carried on the shoulders.

The launch of the operations took a total of 11 days since the day an attack had been staged on the Uri Brigade. It proved enough for the Indian political leadership to take the decision, plan in detail, move resources -- both men and material, and execute the surgical strikes.

The entire exercise also witnessed a diplomatic offensive, the threat of using water resources governed by the Indus Water Treaty and building up of a scenario where it appeared that India was reluctant to use anything but diplomatic means.

The Pakistanis were lulled adequately to provide one of the fundamental prerequisites for successful execution of such an option: Surprise.

The other requisite: Deception in terms of selection of areas for launch/time of offensive action was achieved by attacking disparate Pakistani posts that straddle most of the frontages of three Indian divisions opposing the Pakistanis, and are spread from south Kashmir to the higher reaches of North Kashmir.

Indian unmanned aerial vehicles were apparently up in the sky to use their infra red cameras and other optical loads to observe the progress even as our men used all the stealth to avoid detection by Pakistani electronic means.

Once the footage is analysed, a better picture of the haemorrhage that the Indian soldiers inflicted on the exporters of terror will emerge.

What are the likely options that the Pakistanis have is the issue that is of greater import now for the Indian side to avoid possible losses to a Pakistani retaliation.

The cheapest option available to them is to raise the ante in J&K. Already, a large contingent of jihadis have managed to infiltrate into the state. These groups could be coaxed into taking higher risks and attacking military posts and convoys.

Such activities, being a mere extension of the established jihadi modus operandi within the valley, would barely lead to more than routine recriminations by the global community.

Pakistan could also try and repeat its recently adopted strategy of attacking high value military targets in the Indian hinterland. Such a strategy is fraught with the danger of louder international condemnation.

With India having already launched a diplomatic offensive, any such offensive action will only provide fresh breeze to the Indian sail.

The Pakistani army could also attempt cross border raids on our posts. It is a very probable riposte; however, it can barely be undertaken on the scale which India has undertaken.

Attacking a launch pad and a regular army post are two different options altogether. The later will require huge investments in terms of committing troops and resources. Failures may lead to greater embarrassment.

Pakistan has tied itself in knots by stating that no cross border raids have been launched by India, obviously to avoid loss of face. It narrows its diplomatic options. If they go to the UN or other forums and nations, they would only be contradicting themselves.

Of course, they are likely to accept the fact of the raids as the dust settles and pursue diplomatic channels.

The SAARC meet shortly scheduled in Pakistan is already in jeopardy with India, Bangladesh and Bhutan having declined to participate. Any overtly violent step by Pakistan at this stage would be at a high diplomatic cost.

As far as the Indians are concerned, it would be advisable to launch no further operations as of now, as the Director General of Military Operations has already stated. However, it should be prepared for all possible options that the Pakistani army may exercise.

In the long run, and should the Pakistani army decide to stage another high decibel attack in a misconstrued effort to redeem its image at home, the Indian response must lead to greater damage to Pakistan's military and jihadi conglomerate.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban and Al Qaeda had attacked the Pakistani naval establishment at Mehran, Sind, in May, 2011. The losses included 18 regulars killed, 16 injured and two American P3C Orion Surveillance aircraft destroyed.

Indian intelligence agencies have to develop the capabilities to deliver similar blows. Out of work jihadis throng the Pakistani streets. Most of them are lured more by dollars rather than ideology. There is a possibility of turning Pakistani trained jihadis against their own masters.

There is also a necessity for the Indian side to be able to target the jihadi leadership in Pakistan. Elimination of the top rungs of these organisations will deter them from greater adventurism.

Finally, the diplomatic endeavours must continue and all efforts made to declare Pakistan a State sponsor of global terror. Along with it, the Indus Water Treaty needs to be pursued as a weapon of coercion.

Every other means available to wean Pakistan away from terrorism needs to form a part of the armoury. And that could include giving moral and material support to the Baluchs, and providing military resources and intelligence to Afghanistan.

India needs to leverage its relationship with Iran. Pakistan has been unkind enough to its Shias, and its relationship with Iran is neither deep nor built on trust.

IMAGE: Soldiers in Lachipora in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, September 20, 2016. Photograph: Umar Ganie

Brigadier S K Chatterji (retd)