The seven states of northeastern India, also known as Seven Sisters, are in a state of insurgency. One of them is Nagaland. On June 4, 2015, a convoy of 6 Dogra, an Indian infantry battalion, was ambushed by Naga insurgents in Manipur, another state, killing 18 soldiers. Subsequent to the ambush the insurgents were said to have escaped into Myanmar territory.

“Those who committed this cowardly act would be brought to book”- Manohar Parrikar, then Defence Minister, now Chief Minister of Goa.

According to Dr Bibhu Prasad Routray, Director of Mantraya, an India based independent research forum, Indian media had reported that on June 9, 2015, a surgical strike was conducted by 70 commandos against the training camps of insurgents in which 38 Naga insurgents were killed. He said that in the days that followed, no pictures of the operation were ever released, nor any other evidence shared with the media - instead, the casualty figures of the insurgents began to be revised downwards and questions were being raised about the claims of the Indian army. Moreover, the villagers living close to the Indo-Myanmar border said that since most of the insurgents belonged to Manipur, if some of them were indeed killed, word would have got out. 

He further says that an expert told the BBC, “we should have selected a hard target deep inside Myanmar and hit the leadership cadres instead of the soft and most proximate camps”, while a Voice of America report quoting Indian intelligence said that the strike had not killed any insurgents, which was corroborated by activists who visited the insurgents’ camps and found no evidence of any attack or casualty. A month later, he says the Indian army revised the casualty figure to 7 insurgents, from 70-80 according to Parrikar, and 38 killed according to the Indian army.

“Thus, what was confirmed of the much hyped surgical strike was that it had caused no damage to the insurgents, yet eight commandos were awarded gallantry medals. The surgical strike’s strategic value was exactly zero, is how an expert summed up. The failure of the surgical strike led India to request Myanmar to hand over four top leaders of the insurgents, but Myanmar declined”.

Fifteen months later the Indian army was once again targeted. Shortly before daybreak on September 18, 2016, four insurgents sneaked into an Indian army camp in Uri in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) and opened fire, killing 18-20 soldiers. The Indian army wasted no time in attributing the attack to Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistani outfit, ignoring the fact that the Kashmiris in IHK are fighting back since the start of the insurgency there in 1989. But like the United States and Afghanistan, India too, blames Pakistan to hide their army’s utter incompetence. These countries would do well do remember that by blaming Pakistan they are casting aspersions on their armies.

After the attack, the Indian army resorted to heavy firing across the LoC in a number of sectors for nearly six hours which caused some casualties. On September 29, 2016, the Indian army’s DGMO announced that the army had conducted a surgical strike on ‘terror launch pads’ along the LoC in which significant casualties were inflicted on the ‘terrorists’.

Following this announcement, euphoric shouts of victory resonated across India. But these were short-lived as the ‘surgical strike’ became controversial when the Indian media started speculating about the conduct of the ‘strike’. Some said that Indian commandos used MI- 17 helicopters to go 2-3 kilometres into Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) where they ‘destroyed’ six ‘terror camps’, ‘killing’ at least 38 ‘terrorists’ and Pak army troops, while some said that the commandos had infiltrated through the LoC into AJK on foot - all wishful thinking.

Amid all the confusion in the Indian media and the Indian army, yet another dimension was added to the controversy when the anchor person of an Indian TV channel suggested, without knowing what it entails, that the insertion of the commandos into AJK was probably done by employing the HAHO (high altitude, high opening) technique. In this, the jumper exits from the aircraft at 32,800 ft inside own territory, deploys his parachute at 27,800 ft, then steers it to land at or near the desired point in enemy territory. HAHO jumps, especially at night, are laden with risks. There is danger of mid-air collisions, as well as of asphyxiation and frostbite as temperatures at these altitudes can be as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius, requiring layers of warm clothing and oxygen breathing apparatus etc. Moreover, a HAHO jump at night over AJK’s difficult terrain and in proximity of Pak army positions behind the front-line would have been disastrous. The anchor person’s suggestion was a wild flight of imagination.

Recently, Manohar Parrikar, while addressing a gathering said, “The Swathi Weapon Locating Radar was used to locate firing units of Pak army, and thanks to this radar 40 firing units of Pak army were destroyed”- wishful thinking. The obvious inference from Parrikar’s statement and the statement of Indian army’s DGMO that “the surgical strike was conducted on ‘terror launch pads’ along the LoC”, is that there was no infiltration into AJK by any means.  

Had the Indian army adopted the aerial infiltration option, the choppers would have been shot down. Had they attempted to infiltrate through the LoC on foot, they would have been intercepted. Had they tried to bomb Pak army’s firing units, Pakistani artillery would have subjected the Indian firing units to intensely punishing counter-bombardment, and had they employed the HAHO option, it would have ended in unmitigated disaster.

In the event, in a bid to save face and to fool the people of India, the Indian army construed the intensified firing across the LoC as ‘surgical strike’. And in order to make their claim seem credible, they made a video of a simulated surgical strike, the making of which was witnessed by  Engineer Rasheed, Member of IHK Assembly, who stated that the Indian army was making a fake video of a ‘surgical strike’ for the last three days in the area opposite Lipa sector. 

The fact is that whatever the Indian army has said and continues to say parrot-fashion about the ‘surgical strikes’ in Myanmar and AJK is nothing but barefaced lies.