A lot of has been said about surgical strikes by the Indian forces to avenge the Pathankot attack, where the Indian Government felt betrayed. Many political leaders challenged the Government's claim in September - October 2016. While some political leaders did criticize the muscular approach of the government, a naïve one like Mr Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Chief Minister, sought proof of the same. There were many claims and counter claims. On many TV channels the Congress spokesperson claimed that they had also done many surgical strikes during the tenure. It happened that time in October 2016.
Recently, TV news channels aired video footage of the surgical strikes the Indian army conducted two years ago in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), inviting cheers from the ruling BJP for 'proof' to the 2016 military operation and ridicule from the opposition Congress for the government seeking 'cheap publicity'.
Safeguards taken before any attack
Now, let me explain to the readers that before any attack or surgical strike, whatever may be the magnitude, certain precautionary safeguards have to be taken. This is prescribed through detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which is codified and titled as a book.
This is the magna carta of the security establishment. It prescribes to the minute detail the responsibility of taking several safeguards by the Ministry of Defence in respect of their area of responsibility and Ministry of Home Affairs in their area of responsibility. Suffice to say that these steps have to be necessarily taken to safeguard the national assets, vital installations, hospitals, airports, key strategic assets, etc, in the event of a counter attack by the enemy state.
Now that the proof is out on the public domain, surely the security establishment would have taken these measures as per the SOP.
Have surgical strikes happened before?
Yes, they have happened. Not many know. Here are the details - Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister and George Fernandes, the Defence Minister, decided to soften Pakistani positions using the IAF before the Special Forces went in.
Militants had stormed the Indian Parliament just seven months earlier, in December 2001, triggering a massive military mobilization and standoff on both sides of the border and along the Line of Control (LoC). They were positioned eyeball to eyeball. India called it Operation Parakram. Between May and June 2002, tensions between India and Pakistan were at their height, following the Kaluchak massacre in May 2002. Mediation efforts by Russian President Vladimir Putin had failed.
After the Kargil betrayal by the Pakistanis, India's defence apparatus was suspicious of a Kargil-like troop build-up situation near a border post in the Kel area in the Kupwara sector. Moreover, Pakistani troops were also raining shells on Indian positions from there. The security apparatus felt that there was a need for strong retaliation.
Initially, the plan was to send in the India Army to attack the Pakistani positions. But the plan was changed after quick consultation with then Army Chief General Sundararajan Padmanabhan. It was decided to soften Pakistani positions using the IAF instead of a ground assault before the Special Forces went in.
'Light up' is military talk for designating a target on the laser guidance system. They grasped the implication immediately: Indian fighter jets would lock on and hit the Pakistani post, something the IAF has rarely done during peace time.
Is the author of the strikes the same?
One coincidence I would like to share here. The author of 2016 surgical strikes was also a key person in the Indian security and intelligence establishment at that time of the 2002 strikes. If the authorship of both attacks are attributable to him, I salute this brave son of India.
No orders for any safeguards
One thing I can say with certainty. Between 2006 and 2010, when I was posted in the Internal Security establishment of the Ministry of Home Affairs, there were no surgical strikes on Pakistan-controlled territory as claimed by some spokespersons of the party then in power.
Soft approach of the dispensation
What to talk of the use of physical force. We would not even repudiate our friends from Pakistan and even Bangladesh in a strong manner. Remember the Late Mr Jeevan Kumar. He was a BSF Commandant whose dead body was handed over to us in 2005, after being mutilated by the Bangladesh Rifles. We were not even willing to convey a proper protest. All the reservations of the nation were conveyed in a IG level meeting, and that's it.
Many may challenge as to why I am so certain. Let me clarify. I might not have held a position as to entitle me to be privy to such a decision by the government to execute a surgical strike. But the decision having been taken, I would have surely been associated with the execution of SOP to put the safeguards in place. No such orders to invoke these safeguards codified in the SOP were received.
Only surgical attack was 26/11 Mumbai
If surgical strikes happened during the previous dispensation, it was not by the government. The surgical precision with which the attack happened was the Mumbai attack of 26/11/2008. If one can connect the dots then the participation of many Congressmen in this surgical attack is evident.
Interesting facts that betray political support
Now, there are certain questions I have flagged in my book 'Hindu Terror'. There was overwhelming, actionable and pinpointed intelligence inputs that was pouring in from agencies about a potential attack from the coastal route, with possible targets mentioned. This input was diligently shared from time to time with the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra. By the laid down procedure, after the Chief Secretary the input would have gone directly to the table of the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) of the Government of Maharashtra. Still, the incumbent officer was present at Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the targets. Was it by design or default?
It is now a matter of public knowledge that India's top security establishment were held up in Pakistan when these attacks occurred. In the build up to the talks, certain developments which occurred are captured in detail in my book. I am recapturing them in brief below:
- Why was the Additional Secretary (Border Management), who is conventionally not a member of the Indian delegation, included?
- Who lobbied for inclusion of the Additional Secretary in the delegation?
- Why did the delegation not stick to the predetermined time schedule?
- Why did the leader of delegation not pay heed to his two vital assets, instead overwhelmingly going by the suggestion of his Number 2?
- Was there any hidden agenda in the orchestrations of the Number 2 of the delegation?
- Terrorists entered Mumbai through the Colaba area walked through a well-habituated colony which was buzzing with activity in the evening, with arms, ammunitions, communication equipment etc. But no one noticed? Or did someone guide them? Was there a local guide? Ajmal Kasab had in his interrogation stated so. But due to political interference, this lead was not taken forward. Is it not a giveaway about the involvement of party assets in the attack?
- P Chidambaram told the Lok Sabha that the Indian Navy had sighted the ship in Pakistani waters, but since no further intelligence was received they abandoned the surveillance. Coastal surveillance is the mandate of Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard. They don't wait for intelligence. Indeed intelligence is a force multiplier. But no surveillance is abandoned for lack of further intelligence. They must have been ordered to abandon the surveillance.
- Now, Mr Shivraj Patil delayed the departure of NSG by more than two hours, enabling strategic advantage to terrorists. He also did not respond or clear proposals for deployment of locally stationed security forces as an interim measure. Was this also a part of the surgical strike strategy?
- After the attack, the Minister for Minority Affairs gives an interview to a magazine, where he tries to skirt and divert the main issue of Mumbai attacks and focus on death of Hemant Karkare.
In 2010, a book named '26/11: RSS ki Sazish' written by Aziz Burney (Editor-in-Chief of leading Urdu newspaper Roznama Sahara) was released by Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh. The book claims the RSS and BJP are behind the 26/11 terror attack.
Other notable luminaries, some of whom appear in TV studios as the 'moderate' Muslim face, seen at that book launch were Maulana Mahmood Madani, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP; Mahesh Bhatt, Bollywood director; K Rehman Khan, Congressman and Deputy Speaker, Rajya Sabha; Meem Afzal, former ambassador and journalist; Qalb-e-Jawad, Shia leader; and Maualana Tauqeer Raza, prominent Barelvi cleric. The book launch was moderated by Akhtar-ul Wasey, director of the Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia University.
Incidentally, it is alleged by many sources that this book was already in print when 26/11 happened.
I do not want readers to either jump to conclusions or impute motives. What I have captured above are established facts. May I also share that ever since my book has come out, no person belonging to a different genre has ever repudiated the facts on merits with evidence. Hence, should you have an alternative view, please show the narrative with facts and corresponding evidences. But surely, the above details do betray the fact that while ISI planned, designed and executed the 26/11, some Indian nationals did collaborate and give local support in the execution of the attack and had strategically planned to attribute this attack to involvement of RSS, like they did for the Mecca Masjid and other attacks.
(RVS Mani is a former Central government officer who shot to prominence as a whistleblower in 2009, when he alleged he had been forced to sign documents that fabricated a narrative of 'Saffron Terror'. His book, 'Hindu Terror: Insider account of Ministry of Home Affairs', was released recently.)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)