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The Army carried out “limited-calibre, target-specific, counter-terrorist operations” across the Line of Control in the past too but this was the first time the government went public with the September 29 surgical strikes as part of a strategy, a parliamentary panel on external affairs was told Tuesday.
The panel, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, was briefed by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Bipin Rawat and Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs M K Singla. BSF DG K K Sharma was also present.
According to sources, Congress member Satyavrat Chaturvedi asked whether this was the first surgical strike that India carried out against Pakistan. In his reply, the Foreign Secretary did not use the term “surgical strikes” and was quoted saying that “limited-calibre, target-specific, counter-terrorist operations” were carried out in the past too, but were never announced.
He said soon after the September 29 operations ended, Pakistan’s Director General of Military Operations was informed.
When a member asked for evidence of the strikes, the government representatives replied that the Special Forces crossed the LoC to carry out strikes, not to collect evidence.
Among those who asked questions were Karan Singh and Satyavrat Chaturvedi from the Congress, CPI(M)’s Mohammad Salim and NCP’s D P Tripathi. While Congress vice-resident Rahul Gandhi was present at the meeting, he did not ask any question.
When a Congress member asked whether similar operations would be carried out in future, the officials said the strikes had served their purpose for now, and indicated that it would serve as a deterrent for Pakistan in the future.
In reply to Tharoor’s question on China blocking India’s attempt to get Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar designated as a global terrorist by the United Nations, the Foreign Secretary said India was working on the issue.
Regarding engagements with Pakistan, the Foreign Secretary told the panel that while New Delhi has been engaging with Islamabad after the strikes, no “calendar” has been prepared regarding future engagements and the level of engagements.
A BJP member raised a question on the security of MPs in the wake of the surgical strikes, drawing sharp reaction from an Opposition MP who said the panel was discussing national security and not personal security. Special Secretary (Internal Security), MHA, M K Singla, however, briefed the panel on the security extended to VIPs.
A BJP member of the panel said the questions were not about finding fault. “It was more out of curiosity. There was no politicisation of the issue during the meeting,” he said.
Congress member Karan Singh said “it was a very good meeting”, but parried questions on whether he was satisfied with the response of the government.