What Is A Surgical Strike?

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Tensions continue to rise between India and Pakistan, with exchanges of fire added to the aggressive rhetoric amid reports of a “surgical strike” by India.

The latest drama arises from a so-called “surgical strike” that India undertook on Pakistani territory. India claims that the firing which caused the deaths of two Pakistani soldiers can be termed a “surgical strike,” but Pakistan refutes the claim. As a result, there has been a lot of debate over what the term actually means, and Dawn rounds up some of the different interpretations.

Pakistani sources refute claims of surgical strike

According to Lieutenant General Bajwa, Director General of the Pakistani military’s media wing, the deaths simply cannot be the result of a surgical strike.

“How is it possible that the target of a ‘surgical strike’ has no idea it took place?” he said. “This was simply an episode of cross LoC fire that they [India] have been doing. Small arms and mortars were used in the fire, similar to what has been used before…we gave a befitting response.”

General Bajwa went on to accuse India of using the term in an attempt to appease its citizens.

Retired Air Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry says that India’s recent action does not qualify as a surgical strike.

“A surgical strike is one that comes as a surprise and is conducted with surgical efficiency. It happens when an entity does the job and comes out. It is not messy. There is no collateral damage,” said Mr Chaudhry. “On another level, sometimes what happens is that there is knowledge of the strike but an inability to respond.”

In discussing today’s incident, Mr Chaudhry was unequivocal. “What India has done today is an LoC violation. Not a surgical strike.”

India claims to have targeted terrorists

For its part, India has claimed that it attacked “terrorist teams had positioned themselves on launchpads along the LoC”.

Mr Chaudhry doesn’t believe India’s version of events. “In a circumstance when there is so much of tension on the border between India and Pakistan, only a fool would believe that a terrorist would actually infiltrate. Both armies are on high alert, so this is absurd,” he said.

According to security analyst Hasan Askari, the term surgical strike is generally employed in reference to air strikes.

“This was a ground offensive, not a surgical strike. The Indian military initiated cross-fire from their territory,” said Mr Askari. “It is not possible that they entered Pakistani territory because it is all fenced. Entering Pakistani territory would require that they break that fencing. It is likely that they fired from the LoC.”

Later on Mr Askari pointed out that Thursday’s military action followed the same pattern as previous cross-border firing. “The LoC violations that occurred in the past happened on exactly this pattern – what have they done today that is different?” he said.

Sources insist on using the term

Now that we have heard from Pakistani sources, what do the Indians think of the use of surgical strike. In The Times of India, we are informed that “surgical strikes are military operations undertaken by forces across the world to move on the offensive, hit enemy targets and installations, and return to primary positions – all with lightening speed and with the added precaution of suffering limited casualty.”

The Pakistani army maintains that this was not a surgical strike, but rather cross-border firing. Despite that, both the military and the media in India are calling the action a surgical strike.

“Some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launchpads along the Line of Control,” said Lieutenant Ranbir Singh, director-general of Indian military operations. “The Indian army conducted surgical strikes last night at these launchpads.”

Various news reports from Indian media cite sources who claim that Indian commandos carried out the surgical strike some three kilometers into Pakistani territory. One Indian soldier was later captured on Pakistani soil.

Despite repeated claims from India, it appears that the recent casualties were the result of skirmishes between the two nations. These skirmishes occur on a regular basis between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Pakistani analysts believe that the term “surgical strike” is being used to placate the Indian population. Many sections of society have been pushing for revenge after the attack on the Indian military base in Uri.

The prospect of nuclear war is real, but it would be absolutely devastating. It must be hoped that a peaceful solution can be found to the current crisis, to prevent any more Indian or Pakistani blood being spilled in Kashmir or elsewhere.

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