The Big Picture- Army Strikes Across LoC: Fall Out?
The much awaited response which had been promised by the Indian Government following the attack on Uri Army Base has happened. The army in a counter terrorist operation conducted surgical strike at various launch pads across the LoC. The number of casualties has not been disclosed yet. Meanwhile, Pakistan reacted by denying that any surgical strikes have taken place. They said that it was an unprovoked cross border firing from the Indian side which was retaliated by them. The claims and counterclaims continued and the Indian government called an all-party meeting to appraise the leaders of the situation. There is high alert in the border towns and villages in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and evacuation of people is taking place anticipating retaliation from Pakistan.
This was the first unprecedented tactical surgical strike choosing the shallow targets across the LoC which is qualitatively different from cross border firing. From all accounts coming out of the press and DGMO briefing, it appears that Indian army had intelligence that at certain launch pads, there were terrorists who were planning to infiltrate across the LoC. A launch pad is a place where terrorists get together along with their handlers and guides and do the last minute preparation before they start moving towards LoC and cross the border. Launch pads could be next to the post of Pakistani army, it could be somebody’s house, a hut in the fields or anywhere else. It is not a permanent designated infrastructure as such for that. Normally, India took defensive or reactive action but in this particular case, it was active defence wherein Indian army did not allow them to come forward and struck them at the launch pads itself.
There was a great internal compulsion on the Indian Government to act after the Uri attack. Both Pathankot and Uri attacks were something more than a mere terrorist attack because they were exclusively aimed at defence establishments and no civilians were involved in these attacks. Technically, it can be said to be an undeclared war in one way or the other. There are still questions whether this response from India would deter Pakistan or not.
Why Pakistan downplayed this attack?
Pakistan has denied this operation as a surgical strike because they don’t want it to be full blown crisis. They realize that the international opinion understands the justification that India has in order to carry out such a strike. Pakistan cannot open its nuclear umbrella every time to launch cross border attacks and international opinion needs to understand this. This is a part of overall package of steps that India has taken to examine the premises of its policies towards Pakistan. If Pakistan acknowledges that this was a surgical strike, the army leadership there will be under tremendous pressure to act and it would confirm that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorists.
On the diplomatic front, this operation was fairly organized by Indian Government in order to stop any blow back that India was aggressive, it violated LoC ceasefire etc. This can be said because Indian DGMO conveyed the details of the strike to its Pakistani counterpart thus differentiating Pakistani military from the terrorists. There was also a connection between India and US before the strike regarding exchange of information. Earlier also, such strikes have been carried out but in a covert manner. This time it has taken the limelight because of the outrage that was within India after Uri incident.
India has cleared that it does not want further escalation, even as people living along the LoC are shifted to safer locations, the Government will certainly need to articulate what it regards as the new normal plus how it plans to dissuade Pakistan from escalating the situation in turn.