The government has decided for now it will not release any evidence of the surgical strikes and the damage caused to the terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, arguing that doing so would push the Pakistan Army into a corner.
Top sources in the government told The Indian Express that “war is not in India’s interest at this point” but “that does not, however, mean that we won’t fight and win a war if it is forced upon us”.
Highlighting the diplomatic success of the surgical strikes, sources said that no country has objected to India’s action, including Pakistan’s closest ally, China. Most statements have been in India’s support, including from the Islamic world.
The military operations, sources said, were timed after the United Nations General Assembly meeting was over in New York to avoid complications “which would have diverted our attention and diplomatic energies”.
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The announcement that Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan would be the chief guest at the next Republic Day celebrations — it was made after the strike — was also part of the government’s diplomatic strategy.
Sources said the United States was not informed by the government before the Army carried out the surgical strikes. The telephone call between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his American counterpart, Susan Rice, that morning also did not mention any specific details about the military operations although he dropped adequate hints that some military activity may have taken place on the Line of Control (LoC), sources said.
“We will never be strategically subservient to any country, including the United States. That has been our policy since Nehru’s time; it was what even non-alignment was about. We have worked closely with various world powers over the years, but we will never give up our decisional autonomy,” sources said.
The success of the surgical strikes, sources said, had removed the sense of helplessness that had gripped the country after every previous terror attack. The biggest gain has been the demonstration of national will, along with the decisional autonomy and capability to exercise options, sources said.
The government, at its highest levels, is convinced that Pakistan is demoralised by the global reaction. “The world has accepted that India was justified in responding to cross-border terror in this manner. This acceptance makes it easier for us to take action the second time. But the option chosen the second time could be totally different. It will depend on calculating the counter costs of any action. But any action from our side will always have three characteristics: speed, skill and surprise,” sources said.
Sources also said that in the conversation between the NSAs of India and Pakistan, Doval had repeated the message read out by the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), clearly stating that “we will do what we have to do. This is not the usual process and while we understand the nuclear status of the region, this cycle of terrorism has to be broken.”
The Indian side, sources said, has kept the word given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on January 5, 2016 that the dialogue between the two NSAs will be discreet and not made public to avoid any controversy. The leaks so far, sources said, have come only from the Pakistani side.
On the military exercises between Russia and Pakistan last month after the surgical strikes, sources said it was “a case of mishandling on our part” and should not have been allowed to reach the last minute stage where Russia had to issue a clarification.
“Moscow is worried about instability in Central Asia and needs to engage the ISI so that it is not hostile to Russia. But it does not mean that if it comes to choosing between India and Pakistan, Russia will ever choose Pakistan over us,” sources said.
To a query on comparisons with cross-LoC operations under the previous UPA government, sources said that the Opposition is raising this issue only because “they want to ensure that the government does not get too much credit”. It is for this reason, sources said, that the GST Bill, which was the Congress’s own proposal, had been blocked for such a long time.