Surgical strikes: Why it's now time to ask Indian Army all the hard questions

The offensive seemed to be only targeted at addressing the disillusionment post the Uri attack.

 |  5-minute read |   04-10-2016
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During my weekend visit to the green grocer in my Delhi neighbourhood, a routine query on his well-being was responded to with a broad smile and a shower of praise for "Modiji" for having had the guts to "teach Pakistan a lesson". He was, of course, alluding to the cross-border strike or the "surgical strike" carried out by the Indian Para Special Forces and "Ghatak" platoons of the local units in the wee hours of Thursday, September 29.

While going through the papers of the last couple of days, and also the coverage on news channels, one couldn't help but wonder if journalists of all hues had ended up parroting the line of the establishment without caring to question the narrative at any point.

690indian-army_100316104721.jpg Isn't it clear to the government that Pakistan doesn't really have the elbow room to retaliate in kind?

Though there are limitations on how far you can go in matters of national security, the collective chanting of the official version of the events left one wondering if journalists and anchors have stopped caring about the pursuit of truth at the altar of national interest.

While scepticism is a great quality to have as a journalist, one must also take precautions to not fall into the trap of cynicism. As a sceptic, one would want to know why the Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh did not choose to take questions at the joint press conference he held with the spokesman of the external affairs ministry on the afternoon of September 29, despite revealing the surgical strike undertaken by the Army the preceding night. While he promised to divulge the details later, no official briefing happened after that.

The government decision to take the opposition parties into confidence by briefing them about the matter soon after ensured that no probe would emerge on their part. While the media was left to speculate till late evening on the operations, some outlets claimed their "sources" had informed them more about it. The panellists on TV praised the political parties for speaking in one voice and the anchors in the TV studios contributed in their own ways. Some of them even turned up to host their shows in military attire - it made one wonder if what was going on was indeed real.

With nationalism becoming a controversial subject in recent times, and with people getting branded "anti-national" at the drop of a hat, it is understandable why many people would choose to go along with the official version of events without really bothering to pause and reflect.

This is further compounded by the activity on social media where things can really get out of hand and become ugly.On Saturday, the United Nations (UN) Spokesperson had stated, "The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) has not directly observed any firing across the Line of Control (LoC) related to the latest incidents."

There is also considerable scepticism in the western media of the Indian version of events. A CNN report on Sunday also claimed that there were no visible signs of Indian raids across the border in one of the sites where India claimed to have struck.

They also went on to say that no funeral or mourning was sighted and life went on as normal.

The Pakistan administration has been getting scores of foreign journalists into the sites where the Indian military is supposed to have gone across and struck. The Washington Post had reported of the lack of evidence of such activity on the ground. The BBC also chose to weigh in with scepticism about the Indian claims. The New York Times too reported along those lines.

It becomes a tough question for the journalists to ask of the Indian government when the integrity of the Army is also woven into it.

Though Indian home minister Rajnath Singh reacted with a "Wait and Watch" to a query on the question of releasing the footage of the Indian strikes on Sunday, even politicians like Arvind Kejriwal have joined the debate and demanded the footage be released. The predictable riposte as always is to "trust the army", but isn't it necessary for the government to do something about clearing the doubts of the international audience who wouldn't be swayed by nationalistic cries and jingoism?

But then, the surgical strikes seemed to be targeted more towards addressing the disillusionment of the domestic audience rather than the international media. The general public is not only jubilant about the surgical strikes, but also holds the Indian Army in high regard.

But still, wouldn't the government need to react at some point when the international media is raising questions about the claims made by the Army, thereby questioning its credibility?

There is also another strand of thought that the government need not go beyond this as releasing footage would mean provoking Pakistan into retaliation and escalation. But in less than a week since the "surgical strike", another attack has taken place on the 46 Rashtriya Rifles camp in Baramulla - with further attempts at infiltration near Gurdaspur today. Isn't it clear to the government that Pakistan doesn't really have the elbow room to retaliate in kind, and will only respond through an escalation of covert methods as it always does?

It's time the Indian government revealed the coordinates and video footage of the "surgical strike" and put an end to the speculations once and for all.

Also read - Making Pakistan bleed by a thousand cuts


Anand Kochukudy Anand Kochukudy @anandkochukudy

The writer is a political journalist and lapsed academic.

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