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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Surgical Strikes

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Context

  • February 26th marked the third anniversary of the Balakot airstrike which was conducted by Indian Air Force targeting the terrorist camps operating in Balakot town of Pakistan.
  • It was done in response to a suicidal attack on convoy of vehicles carrying CRPF personnel plotted by Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pulwama district of Jammu.
  • This surgical strike marked a major shift in India’s response to Pakistani sponsored cross border terror activities.

In this article, we will discuss and analyse all aspects of Balakot Air Strike (Surgical Strike), its impact and the way forward against the threat of terror.

What is a Surgical Strike?

  • Surgical Strike is a military attack that is carried out to damage military targets, minimal collateral damage to the surrounding and the general public infrastructure.
  • The aim is to eliminate the target without causing collateral damage to nearby areas and civilians.
  • Surgical strikes require not just detailed and exhaustive planning but need to be carried out with absolute precision to achieve the objective of taking down targets with either no or minimal collateral damage.

Try this question from CS Mains:

Q.The terms ‘Hot Pursuit’ and ‘Surgical Strikes’ are often used in connection with armed action against terrorist attacks. Discuss the strategic impact of such actions. (UPSC CSE 2016)

Reasons for conducting such strikes

  • Public outrage: Indian policymakers and military planners knew that only a military response would calm the enraged minds of their fellow citizens.
  • Political backing: Unlike the present instance, however, India’s special operations in Pakistan were kept secret and never revealed to the public.

Significance of the strike

  • Offensive retaliation: The public announcement of the strike marked a change in India’s policy towards such attacks.
  • Demonstration of capability: It had become clear that India would at some stage be forced to act. And India acts in full capacity.
  • Perception change: The acknowledgment came amid scepticism and disputing accounts of the attack.
  • Paradigm shift in defence policy: Therefore this marked a paradigm shift in India’s response to terror attacks adding a new essence to the defence policy of India. 
  • Risk-taking: The decision to exploit the space below the ceiling of a full blown war to launch a sub-conventional operation seems to have been a well calculated risk.

Beneficial outcome

  • Reduction in infiltration: It led to a considerable reduction in infiltrations from across the border bringing down the cases of terror attacks. 
  • Support for independent actions:  In earlier instances, we would hold ourselves back owing to the ramifications any such act would have internationally. Many countries endorsed India’s move.
  • Demoralised terrorist organisations: The pro-activeness in taking down infiltrators on their home-ground had a huge impact on demoralising the forces planning India’s destruction.
  • High morale of public and the economy: The strikes proved to be an important element for maintaining the morale of the people of India and the armed forces.
  • Demise of terror outfits: Dreaded terror groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda have failed in their persistent attempts to target India and the country’s interests. (Though they now have emerged as TRF-the resistance front.)
  • Change of narrative: Pakistan’s ‘high effect low cost war’ becomes a ‘low effect high cost war’ and that is exactly what the surgical strikes have achieved.

Various steps undertaken

A number of steps have been taken to structurally enhance India’s defence capabilities and preparedness:

  • Defence Procurement Policy: It brought out in 2020 provides for a vision to turn India from an arms importer to an exporter.
  • Make in India and Atmanirbharta: A huge emphasis has been laid on new initiatives such as Make in India which call for greater indigenisation and relaxed FDI norms in the defence sector to encourage investment in defence production.
  • Defence collaborations: The government has also entered into a number of agreements with different countries for the modernisation of defence equipment and weapons.  
  • iDEX programme: The government is also tapping the start-up ecosystem through its flagship Innovations in Defence Excellence (iDEX) programme.

Issues with such strikes

  • Populist measures: Cross-border strikes by a state must not be seen as mocking the authority and political resolve of another government.
  • No alternative to diplomacy: Such an approach leaves neither side with any room for diplomatic manoeuvre, working severely to the detriment of a political solution.
  • Army going populist: What surprised many this time was the very public nature of the announcement about the counter strike and claims of heavy casualties inflicted.
  • Overt Politicization: There has been too much politicking, with the army needlessly dragged into this controversy.  
  • Burden of proof: Even after years, many political factions are seeking more objective proofs from the government and army of the actual operations.

Way forward

  • There is a necessity to strengthen India’s strategic intent in order to convey to the adversaries that India is militarily capable of averting the terror threats to which the actions like Balakot airstrike stands significant.
  • This approach shall continue with consistency. 
  • It has been suggested by an expert that the revision of plans and policies pertaining to national security, should be based on the situation involving a thorough assessment. 
  • The strategy of preparedness towards escalation as an immediate response to any terror attack needs to continue. 
  • Beyond the employment of the defence forces, India can also extend its diplomatic influence as a preventive measure to spread the fear of economic sanctions for its major adversary Pakistan. 
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