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Maintaining that no surgical strikes were conducted in the past and previous actions along the Line of Control were at best covert operations, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said the credit for the September 29 strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir should go to the Indian Army and citizens of the country.
He said the surgical strikes were the result of a “bold” decision taken by the government of the day and it should be “cheered” for that.
Speaking at an event in Mumbai, the Defence Minister said the next response need not be a surgical strike since “unpredictability” keeps the enemy guessing.
“We need surgical strikes but our next response need not be by way of a surgical strike. There should be unpredictability in response. Otherwise, the enemy can study your pattern and prepare its strategy.”
Asked if intelligence failure led to the Uri attack, Parrikar said: “I won’t say there was failure. But yes, there were some shortcomings and we have taken care of it.”
He said if TV channels stop beaming incidents of stone-pelting, such incidents would come down by 75 per cent.
On Opposition criticism that the BJP was trying to take credit for the strikes, he said: “The credit for the surgical strikes go to the Army and 127 crore Indian citizens. We don’t take credit for the surgical strikes. However, it is the government that takes decisions and such a government should be cheered for its bold decisions. I am a citizen, so 1/127crore is my contribution to the strike.”
“There was a feeling of helplessness among 127 crore citizens and 13.5 lakh people in the Army. Frustration was growing that the enemy is continuously bleeding us with thousand cuts. The enemy isn’t bothered if there is an international hue and cry… The enemy is pushing terrorists from across the border. The frustration of 30 years was vented on September 29,” he said.
Rejecting claims of surgical strikes carried out under previous governments, Parrikar said: “I have been holding this portfolio for two years now. To my knowledge, there were no surgical strikes in the past. Those actions can at best be called covert operations, where action was taken by border action teams, where the local commandant took action against the opponent. In such cases, reports are submitted subsequently to the government. But the September 29 strikes were the result of a government decision.”
He said he did not sleep for three nights ahead of the operations. “During the operations, I kept my mobile phone away, just to ensure that if it is compromised, nobody eavesdrops on important conversations. I mostly switch off my phone during important meetings but one can even bug the battery of your phone and listen to your conversations.”
Describing the current situation “better than 2013”, Parrikar credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for securing the borders. “I should say that the national borders are much more secure under the leadership of the Prime Minister.”
“Prime Minister tried to patch up with Pakistan. He extended a hand of friendship but it was construed by many as a weakness of this government. What we did on September 29 was tell our adversaries that we are not weak,” he said.
Asked about his biggest challenge, Parrikar said it was dealing with scams of the past.
On the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, he said: “During my tenure, there has not been a single case of human rights violation. In cases were there have been some errors of judgment, inquiries are underway and action will be taken accordingly. We have given clear instructions: don’t touch civilians but if somebody comes with a gun, then don’t treat him as a civilian.”
Asked about the procurement policy and limited suppliers, Parrikar said: “There are 18 major companies that supply defence equipment. If we add their cross-holding companies, then this number will rise to 40. If one cross-subsidiary is embroiled in some scam and if we keep banning all of them, then we won’t have a supplier to go to.”
On self-reliance in Defence, Parrikar said it is an imaginary goal. “In small items, we could. But for big equipment, an overall system is developed through supplies from various countries. But in the process, even if we become self-reliant 75 per cent, it is a good achievement,” he said.
Asked if the Defence budget was less than what was needed, he said: “I don’t think money will be a constraint for procuring anything. But I am not in favour of wasteful expenditure. For the first time, we have prepared a graph that projects requirements until 2027.”