Surgical strike was sealed, delivered, kept under wraps until CCS meeting

Right now, though, the government believes that any premature release of pictures or videos can complicate the post-strike situation.

Written by Sheela Bhatt | New Delhi | Updated: October 1, 2016 10:00 am
surgical strikes, surgical strike, India pakistan, Pakistan, India, Indian army, uri attack Surgical strikes: A source close to Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that in a meeting on September 24 “broad details of targeting terrorists” were discussed with members.

The top brass of the BJP and the government were aware that “action will be taken” days after the Uri attack but details of the surgical strike were kept under wraps until after it was over — and came as news to most members of the Cabinet Committee on Security when they met yesterday, sources have told The Indian Express.

A source close to Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that in a meeting on September 24 “broad details of targeting terrorists” were discussed with members. But operational details of the strike, a top government source said, were known only to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Army Chief General Dalbir Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

“The strike has sent the clear message that the Modi government is not your usual government. We are not orthodox, the Prime Minister doesn’t go by the dos and don’ts of conventional diplomacy,” a top BJP leader told The Indian Express yesterday.

Indeed, Modi’s speech at Kozhikode calling for a war against poverty was a message from the people of India to the people of Pakistan and the strike on terror pads on Thursday was between the Indian Army and the Pak Army, the BJP leader said explaining the unfolding strategy of the Government in the wake of the unprecedented surgical strike on Thursday.

A top government source said that according to the Indian Army’s estimate, “casualties are substantial and if and when photographs and videos are released, the Army will be able to buttress the claim of success.” An official who has watched the film of the operations says its impact was “huge.”

Right now, though, the government believes that any premature release of pictures or videos can complicate the post-strike situation.

Another development being watched very carefully here is Pakistan Army chief Raheel Sharif’s retirement scheduled for later this year. The view in the government is that this puts pressure on the Pak security establishment to come up with a response to the first ever strike since 1971 that India has admitted to. That Pakistan is in a denial mode, sources said, helps it to buy some time to plan its response.

“No country will blame India for not trying enough. The Prime Minister went to Lahore and after the Pathankot attack, we allowed ISI men to inspect. What more by way of peace overtures can India show to win Pakistan’s trust?” asked a top government source.

Asked about a possible retaliation from Pakistan and pressure on India from US and China, the government source said: “Of course, we have taken into account these things but we have responded to the Indian people’s desire. India is celebrating the Army’s action. How long can a country of 1.2 billion be at the receiving end and take hits from Pakistan without raising a finger? Kitna maar khaye hum?”

Asked about the Kozhikode speech and its apparent mismatch with a surgical strike barely days later, the top party leader said: “What has happened at the border is between the Indian army and Pakistan army. When we suffer from terrorism, we have to plan counter-terrorism. What Modi talked about in Kerala are pressing issues for both countries that touch people.”

Incidentally, BJP president Amit Shah had discussed the Uri attack and its political fall-out with Modi and his party colleagues before he left for Kerala to attend the party’s national executive. After the strike, he called a meeting of BJP spokespersons and told them to “moderate” their responses. Shah and Parrikar refused to speak to the media and BJP avoided a press conference that day. The message to all to was to “underplay” the operation, a signal that the government is treading cautiously given the possibility of a Pakistan response.

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