The Surgical Strike Day celebrations on Friday to mark the anniversary of the cross-LoC operation by the Indian Army two years ago should be an occasion for sober reflection. Nations everywhere celebrate military victories. In India, Kargil Vijay Diwas is marked to remember the soldiers who laid down their lives as they pushed back Pakistani soldiers from points where they had intruded into India. The reasons for celebrating the 2016 operation are not that clear cut. By all accounts, the Indian Army had carried out such operations earlier, but this was the first time the government made it public and took credit.
India’s surgical strike across the LoC that inflicted damage on terrorists and their infrastructure sent a signal that there were red lines when it came to cross-border terrorism. But two years down the road, can it be said with any certainty that there is no more cross border infiltration, that soldiers are no longer killed trying to defend the territorial integrity of India? The numbers, provided by the government in Parliament and elsewhere, tell their own story. If there was a strategic goal, that too is not apparent. The surgical strike did not persuade in bringing Pakistan to the dialogue table on India’s terms. In fact, just last week, India called off a meeting with Pakistan, citing the killing of a BSF jawan near the International Border among other reasons.
Hype around a military operation on the LoC can only lead in one direction — more jingoism. Indeed the last few years have seen a militarisation of the popular imagination on a scale found only in a nation in the midst of a war, or wishing, or preparing for one. Asking universities to celebrate it through “activities” that smack of mobilisation is over the top. India is not in a war, nor should it want one. While all nations have armies, none hopes to send its soldiers to fight, because war necessarily means body bags, shattered homes and communities, and large scale destruction, from which it takes years to recover, win or lose, in every way. This is why there are diplomats, to prevent exactly that kind of situation. It is diplomacy, and only that, which can help India sort out its problems with Pakistan.