Guidelines for Army’s ‘aid to civil authorities

Source: PTI

The Yamuna and the Army seem to be inextricably linked, and as some would suggest, for all the wrong reasons. Recently the Army was tasked to construct a pontoon bridge over the Yamuna for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s World Cultural Festival on the banks of the Yamuna. Criticism of the (mis)use of military resources has not just come from veterans but also the Congress and other Opposition parties. Disturbingly, a mainstream weekly magazine has been scathing in its criticism of Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag, for allowing the Government to ride roughshod over the military and use it as a labour force. The General has been accused of cozying up to the Government for a post retirement assignment.

Either way, the fact is that use of specialised bridging equipment for non-military tasks is, to say the least, foolish and short-sighted, given the necessity to keep our limited stocks functional for meeting operational requirements. However, to apportion blame on the Army chief is unfair, as reports suggest that the Ministry of Defence insisted on its deployment despite objections from the Army, which it has the right to do. Therefore, if anybody needs to be held accountable, it must be the Defence Secretary and his political boss, the Minister for Defence.

That said, it may be worthwhile to remember that this is not the first time the military has been so utilised. In March 1997, for example, world renowned pianist Yiannis Chryssomallis, popularly known as Yanni, gave a concert on the banks of the Yamuna at the Taj Mahal in Agra. At that time the Army was tasked to construct not one but two pontoon bridges across the Yamuna, as well as develop approach roads to those bridges. Obviously, this could not have been done without approval from the Ministry. I am not sure if the Army Chief, or anybody else, objected to this misuse of Army then, as has been done now — or if got themselves admission gratis, the latter being a more glamorous event, as a quid pro quo. It will also be fair to ask if the organisers paid for the use of the equipment then and what, if any, were the observations made subsequently by audit authorities. Also, knowing the name of the VIPs who attended that concert will be a bonus.

While two wrongs certainly do not a right make, it will be fair to ask the Congress and the Opposition to desist from hypocrisy and work with the Government to put in place suitable guidelines to control the use of military resources for tasks that do not fall qualify as ‘Aid to Civil Authorities’. For example, assisting with the organisation of events such as the Asian or Commonwealth Games may be included.

Also, veterans need to be more circumspect as to what they express about military-related events on social media. They best understand the impact such constant criticism has on the chain of command and on the morale of the rank and file. The military already faces unprecedented challenges, both external and internal, thanks to its neglect over the years as also because of the social and cultural transformation that the country is undergoing (from which the military is not untouched). The veterans will be doing a great dis-service to the military by adding to its problems with constant criticism. The serving hierarchy must be given due opportunity and space to carry out its responsibilities in the manner it considers fit. The need for discernment between what constitutes justifiable advice and uncalled for interference must be fully understood and respected.

Finally, the Ministry of Defence must be held accountable for what constitutes its main responsibility: the defence of the nation. It stands to reason that without an effective, efficient and motivated military, the country is not secure. There is ample information in public domain that tells us of the poor state of military preparedness. In addition, the fact that civil-military relations are at their very lowest ebb and that the Ministry has been shown to have actively aided the ongoing attempts to downgrade the military must lead to action against those responsible for the current state of affairs. For too long now, the Ministry of Defence has held the reins of power without accountability. This must change.

This commentary originally appeared in The Pioneer.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).


Army should not be used for political gain

 Indian Army Parade

Indian Army Parade

Source: Indian Army

One of the more alarming outcomes of the so called “surgical strike” on Pakistani positions in Jammu & Kashmir is the attempt to drag the Indian Army into politics.

For this both the ruling and the opposition parties are to blame, as well as some retired army officers.

The politicians’ motives are electoral, in view of the coming Uttar Pradesh elections.

The greater blame rests with the ruling party, where the Union Defence Minister who, instead of shielding the army from controversy, has been most assiduous in using it for his party’s publicity.

One of the sad facts of democracy are the base things done and said in election time, however, the army is too important an institution to be used for electioneering.


The basic facts were laid out on the very first day by the DGMO, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh.

The army conducted strikes on targets along the Line of Control to preempt so-called non-state actors from launching attacks on India.

This was a one-off action, but in acknowledging it, the government has signalled a posture of “surgical deterrence” which will hopefully deter future cross- LoC attacks.

The Indian Army is a volunteer force which maintains an apolitical posture and emphasises professionalism.

It has played a significant role in building the nation by its secular and non-sectarian approach.

Recall, that before the arrival of the British, Indian armies were constantly battling each other on a regional or sectarian basis.

For their own reasons, the British wanted a force which would not get involved in internal uprisings, and so, they carefully recruited and maintained the force in cantonments, separated from society and paid them through a central treasury.

After independence, too, the government saw the value of this and encouraged the army to remain apolitical, separated from the society both psychologically and physically.

But for the small mutiny of the Sikh soldiers in the wake of Operation Bluestar in 1984, this has worked well.


The problem today is of political movements that are trying to stoke ultra-nationalism, and in the process seeking to conflate the status of the army as ultra-patriotic deshbhakts.

This goes against the grain of the army and its outlook. The average person who joins the army, as a jawan or officer, does not do it out of ultra-patriotism, or to “serve the nation”, but because it is a job that comes with social respect, a reasonable income and a life-time pension.

It raises the status of the family of the soldier or officer and is a means of upward social mobility.

However, there is one critical difference; the military job requires you to put your life on the line, on occasion.

Fortunately, independent India has not been involved in any major war, so the risk of death has remained low.

In any case, the soldier confronts the possibility of death as part and parcel of his professional commitment, not bravery and deshbhakti.

All commanders take calculated risks and do not play with the lives of their men, there is no such thing as secular fidayeen.

The Special Forces do undertake highrisk missions, not just because they are brave, but that they are highly trained and have a sense of professionalism inculcated through their rigourous training and their special weapons and tactics.

Their trade-craft and strong esprit de-corps makes them comfortable in conducting operations which would appear near-suicidal to others.

Here there is also need to look into this use of “shaheed” for a soldier who dies in battle.

This is a religious category used by countries like Pakistan as well. What we need is a distinct category, something like that of France where soldiers who died in war have the designation “Mort pour la France” (Died for France).

This is a legal category that provides for special benefits for the families of those so designated.


All of us want a brave army, but bravery is never enough. The fearsomely brave Rajputs would order their women to commit jauhar (self-immolation) and go into battle knowing there was nothing to live for thereafter.

But the Rajputs lost many wars. What the modern Indian republic needs is a military that wins every time.

So it must be well equipped, not just with weapons systems, but highly trained, educated and motivated personnel.

They should be well paid and professionally satisfied, but also distracted from the many storms that always buffet the country- the beef controversy, the water wars of Karnataka, the reservation riots in Haryana, the Maratha agitation, the Maoists and even the Kashmiri agitation.

Their orientation must be relentlessly on their need to defeat external enemies.

This commentary originally appeared in Mail Today.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

In bucking army seniority, Modi takes a leaf from Pakistani playbook

A hard look at our politics and society suggests it may be a good idea to go by seniority alone till we become more complete ‘Indians’

 Kargil, army, Drass, Bipin Rawat, Suhag

The main entrance of Kargil War Memorial by the Indian Army at Drass

Source: Wikipedia

A hard look at our politics and society suggests it may be a good idea to go by seniority alone till we become more complete ‘Indians’ and our approach to governance is more professional.

So India has now decided to tail Pakistan. Following Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to go down the seniority list and appoint the officer fourth in the seniority list as chief of army staff, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, has gone down the list to select the officer third in the Indian list of seniority as the army chief, Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat..

Sharif also simultaneously appointed the senior-most in the Pakistani list, Lt Gen Zubair Mehmood Hayat to the rank of Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. In keeping with the trend, we are hearing that Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi might be elevated to the position of chief of a tri-service defence staff. As Mohan Guruswamy has pointed out in a Facebook post, this would entail Bakshi superseding Rawat, who has just superseded him.

Supersession at the apex level of the army has not been unusual in Pakistan. But the Indian decision to appoint Rawat, the current vice-chief, as army chief in succession to General Dalbir Singh Suhag has been met with controversy. The principle of seniority is a hallowed one in the Indian army, and each supersession is remembered as victimisation of a deserving officer like P.S. Bhagat or S.K. Sinha.

It is a bit difficult to accept the government’s claim that Rawat was chosen solely on the basis of his merit. When you reach the rank of an army commander, you have already gathered a life-time’s experience in soldiering. The army chief is not an operational commander who needs to be experienced in counter-insurgency. He is a supervisor – the battlefield commander is the regional army commander. Look at the 1965 war, where Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh commanded the western front, or the 1971 war where Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora commanded the eastern front. If we could push through reforms in our defence system, we would actually have theatre commands and the army chief, as is the case in China, the United States or other countries, would be merely responsible for provisioning and training the force.

Yet, for the present we cannot deny the government its reasoning process. Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet committee on security felt that Rawat had all the requirements they wanted. They may be wrong, but that doesn’t take away their prerogative to take a decision along lines they consider the most optimal.

In doing what the government did, it has followed a laid down procedure – five army commanders and the serving vice-chief constituted a panel of names which were put up to the CCS for selection. There is no requirement that the senior-most officer be selected, hence the need for a panel. However, over the years, in a bid to avoid controversy over appointments, the governments of the day have gone with seniority. Actually, for no government appointment is strict seniority a good idea – not just for the army chief, but in other departments as well. Ideally, we should do away with the seniority system, provided it is done through a well-thought through design and understanding of the longer-term implications.

The army promotion ladder is steep and is already plagued with another problem—the “zero fault” syndrome, where any error can lead to losing your place in the queue. As is well known, only people who actually do things are likely to make errors. So, the zero-fault approach leads to an over-cautious officer cadre, which is not good when you want a war-winning military.

Another factor that deserves consideration is the need to give the incumbent of a top office in the military a term of at least four to five years. The current two-year tenure is simply inadequate, with the incumbent taking six months to sit firmly in the saddle and the last six months in planning his retirement. But if longer terms are to become the norm, so will larger scale supersession.

It is true that all this sounds nice in theory, but we live in a deeply divided society where caste, religion and even sub-caste affiliations colour a person’s view. This is evident in the army itself, where chiefs are accused of promoting personnel from their own respective arm and regiment. V.K. Singh was accused of promoting Rajput regiment officers and now Dalbir Singh Suhag is charged with promoting officers from the Gurkha regiments. In such an environment, biases are not just imagined, but real. Besides such biases are the human ones where sycophancy and a desire to please the bosses can be passed off as capability. An unflinching look at our politics and society would suggest that, perhaps, it is a good idea to go by seniority alone till we become more complete “Indians” and our approach to government and governance is more professional.

That said, there is a problem in appointing Bakshi as CDS after Rawat has been named army chief. Whether it is the Arun Singh committee in 1990, the Group of Ministers recommendations in 2001 or the Naresh Chandra committee in 2012, they have all seen the CDS/permanent chairman chiefs of staff committee as the primus inter pares – or first among equals. He is meant to be the principal and single-point military adviser to the government. In view of that, the Naresh Chandra committee suggested that he be selected from among the serving army, navy or air force chiefs. Hopefully the government will not just make a token appointment. The country desperately needs a CDS figure – not a decorative figurehead – whose office must be fully empowered; just what powers the CDS must enjoy have been listed out by various official committees in great detail. Announcing a CDS without those powers, as some in government have mooted, is to rob a serious recommendation of its substance.

This commentary originally appeared in The Wire.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

Money matters in the military

 Indian Army,Military

Yudh Abhyas by Gurkha Rifles


The only viable option for the Modi Government is to go back to the status quo ante as it existed before the Third Pay Commission started tinkering with the issue of civil-military parity. But sooner or later, the Government must take initiatives to move ahead in this direction

When is a scam not a scam? The short answer obviously would be, when it is approved by the Government in power. But then, the question arises: Is that necessarily true?

Take the case of the Non Functional Financial Upgrade or NFFU. Introduced by the Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC), it allows for the grant of a higher pay scale on non-functional basis to the All India and Organised Group ‘A’ Services till Senior Administrative Grade (SAG) and Higher Administrative Grade (HAG) level after a gap of two years compared to an IAS officer of the same batch, who is posted at the Centre at the SAG or HAG level.

This promotion was independent of organisational requirements, availability of vacancies and level of responsibility or span of control of a post.

In simple terms, it implied that when an IAS officer from a particular batch (a batch includes everyone who joins service the same year) was promoted to a certain rank, all batch-mates from Group A Central Services automatically started drawing the same pay scale two years after that individuals promotion.

Thus, even as those officials continue to discharge their earlier functions, they are upgraded to the higher pay grade of their IAS batch-mate. Effectively, this has meant that every central services officer makes it to top pay grades, albeit with a two-year time lag behind the IAS.

It goes without saying that such a system is contrary to all principles of management and completely without precedent anywhere in the world, in either the Government or the corporate sector.

By all yardsticks, it is a scam of immense proportions on the tax-paying public that funds this excess and useless expenditure. But for the fact that in this case, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh allowed it to be implemented.

It only showed up the degree of dependency and vulnerability of his scam-ridden Government to bureaucratic shenanigans and quid pro quo.

Commentator Minhaz Merchant called it “the empire of babus”! There is a caveat and it must be mentioned that members of the seventh CPC objected and wanted it terminated, but Justice Mishra, the Chairman, in his wisdom, insisted on its continuance because “it has existed for the last 10 years”.

This issue has once again come to haunt us as a Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has ruled in favour of the hundred and sixty odd serving officers who approached for the same to also be applicable to the military. The Seventh CPC had not recommended it for the military and the mandarins in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have been vehemently objecting to it being given to the military ever since they first demanded it in 2010.

The attitude of the Seventh CPC and the MoD towards the military in this regard smacks of parochialism and bias, because the ostensible reason for introducing NFFU, in the first place, was to ensure that stagnation did not adversely impact personnel. It, therefore, made little sense not to give it to those most impacted by lack of promotion avenues, given the military’s pyramidal structure.

In addition, the AFT has also directed that the Armed Forces be treated as an organised Group ‘A’ Service. Obviously, the Government is unlikely to implement these directions anytime soon.

Given its earlier behaviour of indulging in chicanery and gross misrepresentation in the Supreme Court to delay and derail the case of the ‘Dynamic Assured Career Progression’ Scheme pertaining to Military doctors, despite the AFT ruling in their favour some years ago. Even a novice in management will agree that no hierarchical organisation can ever work in a manner in which all personnel equal receive equal compensation regardless of differing responsibilities or positions that they may hold.

If it did how would it ensure that personnel remained motivated or strive to perform so that merit could be rewarded? At the end of the day,all promotions are intimately connected to pay and perks, and if all individuals are to finally receive equal pay then why would individuals strive to take on additional responsibilities and the hard work it entails?

Moreover, there is something morally and ethically reprehensible for people to receive compensation for a job that they are not doing. It was for this very reason that the Chiefs of Staff Committee had opposed the idea of NFFU in 2008 when it was first proposed.

Thus, by no stretch of imagination, is the introduction of NFFU going to help the military in any way. However, in Government pay scales are the determining factor of inter-services parity, and therefore, its implementation for the military cannot be avoided for now.

This is because by its very introduction the civil services have already wreaked havoc to the earlier parity that existed between civilian and military personnel. It has also adversely impacted the very functioning of those organisations such as the Ministry of Defence, the Military Engineering Services and the Border Roads Organisations and the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

It has also disrupted smooth functioning of the military with other organisations within the security establishment of the country. The only viable option to stop this headlong rush to the bottom by the civil services and the other Central Government services, including the military, is for the Narendra Modi Government to do away with NFFU totally and revert to status quo ante as it existed before the Third Pay Commission started tinkering with the issue of civil-military parity.

The question that arises is: Does Prime Minister Modi, or for that matter any other politician, have the nerve to take such a step as that would immediately raise the hackles of all those affected? This is especially since they are so completely dependent on their cooperation and goodwill for their functioning.

That apart, there can be little doubt that a scam always remains a scam, when advantage of unsuspecting tax-payers is taken, regardless of whether it has political patronage and Government sanction.

This commentary was originally published in Daily Pioneer

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

Indian Army Vision 2020

Indian Army Vision 2020


Most armies tend to prepare for the last war. The battle-hardened Indian Army has also been traditionally conservative. From the Pakistani incursions into Kashmir in October 1947 to now, the nation’s territorial integrity has often been threatened by inimical neighbours. Forever in battle, the Indian Army has fulfilled its role admirably, in a spirit of valour and sacrifice, fighting several wars as also helping stem insurgency within the country. However, the changing nature of warfare, the emergence of geo-strategic environment, the existential threat from India’s nuclear-armed military adversaries and the danger from terrorism, require a quantum jump in the army’s operational capabilities.In order to successfully face the new challenges, the army must modernize its weapons and equipment and upgrade its combat potential. Indian Army Vision 2020 spells out precisely how that can be done—it examines the threats and their changing nature, identifies the key operational commitments, makes a comparative analysis of how other modern armies are coping and offers a considerable guide map for a modern fighting force that is light, lethal and wired to meet the operational challenges of the 21st century.

Pakistan should exploit increasing corruption in Indian Army

While the entire world has been busy teaching Pakistan lessons in democracy, there is little appreciation of the fact that serious infractions plague its more glamorous neighbour India.

Islamabad: Daily Ausaf, October 07, 2012. While the entire world has been busy teaching Pakistan lessons in democracy, there is little appreciation of the fact that serious infractions plague its more glamorous neighbour India, wrote security analyst Tariq Ismael Sagar. Large number of Indians have taken up arms against their own government. Two hundred and thirty two out of the 608 districts in India are affected by political violence. More and more Indian are disillusioned by their state, he said.

The Indian Army too has been hit by more than one crisis. Reputable human rights groups have reported that 154 Indian Army personnel committed suicide in 2008. The force has repeatedly committed crimes against women in many parts of the country. More than one-third of its work force in Kashmir is said to be infected with HIV. Tariq Ismael Sagar said that the situation has become so desperate for the army that it has begun approaching sex workers, and a large number of eunuchs are employed in Indian occupied Kashmir. Incidents of rape in Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Nepal border have also increased. According to the report, the Indian government has installed one thousand condom vending machines in its border areas to reduce HIV infections. Major Gen. A.K.Lal was dismissed for sexually harassing a woman journalist. Captain Punam Singh accused three senior officials of sexual harassment in 2009. Tariq Ismael further revealed that recently, the Indian Air Force chief suspended his subordinate, Gen. Nanda, for abusing his secretary. Similar allegations have also been leveled against CBI and RAW officials.

The Indian Army has also been crippled by multiple cases of corruption. A land-scam case in the Sukhna region of West Bengal is under trial against four generals – Lieutenant General Ravi D. Prakash, Lt. Gen. Ramesh Halgali, Lt. Gen. P.K. Rath and Maj. Gen. P. Sen. In another high profile case, Commodore Mukhjinder Singh among others have been accused of taking six percent commission (Rs 64 crore) in Aero-MSIS missile deal from Israel and the Gorshkov deal from Russia. India’s Central Beaureu of Investigation (CBI) has submitted cases against Maj Gen Anand Kapur in a five crore scam. Major Gen. Guru Eqbal Singh was arrested for allegedly selling liquor in contraband market. Brigadier Gurdeep Singh, in fact, sold an entire forest and then falsely burned the woodland to cover his tracks.

Due to these cases, China has refused to issue visas to Indian generals. In fact, the Canadian government has also refused to issue visa to retired Indian Gen. Amreek Bhai and BSF commander Fateh Singh for human rights abuse in Kashmir. Tariq Ismael concluded that Pakistan should take advantage of these weaknesses for its own benefits.

Interpol issues warrant against Pakistan army officers

Islamabad: Daily Jasarat, October 08, 2010. International Police (Interpol) has issued Red Warrants against five Pakistanis, two of them serving officers of the army, for their alleged role in the Mumbai attack of 26/11. Major Sameer Ali and Major Eqbal hailing from Lahore are serving officers of the army, while Ilyas Kashmiri, Sajid Sajjad and Sayyed Abdurrahman Hashim are militants affiliated to Lashkar-e-Tayyibah.

Pakistan army trained Kashmir Mujahideen: Musharraf

Berlin: Daily Jasarat / Ausaf October 06-07, 2010. Former President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged for the first time that Pakistan provided training to Kashmiri militants. Speaking to the German magazine Das Spiegel, he defended his actions by criticizing the western community for turning a blind eye towards India’s mistakes and instead blaming Pakistan for India-Pakistan crisis. To prove his point, he cited the example of India’s role in Pakistan’s dismemberment in 1971, during which the international community did nothing to stop India.

Pakistan carrying out drone attacks, not America: Hussein Haqqani

Islamabad: Daily Jasarat / Jang, October 07, 2010. Pakistan’s Ambassador to US, Hussein Haqqani, revealed that Pakistan carried out recent drone attacks in north Waziristan against terrorists planning attacks in Europe, and not the United States, as widely believed. He said that Abdul Jabbar, a British citizen, who was leading a small al-Qaeda group named the Islamic Army of Great Britain, was killed in one of the drone strikes.

Jamaat-i-Islami demands permanent halt to NATO convoys

Karachi: Daily Ummah / Jasarat, October 08, 2010. Jamaat-i-Islami chief Munawar Hassan has demanded that Pakistan government permanently stop the movement of NATO convoys through Pakistan since the United States is intentionally destabilising Pakistan in order to take charge of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Speaking during an Eid meeting, he also said that America has lost the war in Afghanistan and that only a formal announcement of Afghan victory was awaited.

We condemned India’s cruelty towards unarmed Kashmiris: Iran

Tehran: Daily Ausaf, October 05, 2010. Iran government has widely condemned human rights abuse of unarmed Kashmiri people in the past few months, in which more than 100 civilian protestors were shot dead. Ramen Mehman Parast, the spokesperson of Iran’s foreign ministry, said that India should exercise restraint. In response, Indian spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said that Iran was angered after an Iranian news channel, Press TV, was banned after a false news carried by it instigated violent protest in Kashmir. India should understand that Iran supports Pakistan over the issue of Kashmir.

Azad Kashmir Assembly passes a resolution against ‘Indo-US Kafirs’

Muzaffarabad: Daily Ummah / Jasarat, October 07, 2010. The Pakistan administered Kashmir, or Azad Kashmir, legislative assembly unanimously passed a resolution proposed by Waqf Minister Hamid Raza against ‘Indo-US Kafirs’ through international law to seek justice against crimes committed against Islam. According to the resolution, Europeans publishing sketches of prophetic photographs, American Popes openly threatening to burn Qura’an on September 11, American judiciary sentencing Afia Siddiqui for 86 years just to provoke Muslims; and recently, Indian Hindus encroaching into the Babari Mosque in Ayodhya with corrupt judicial support, are all inexcusable crimes against Islamic tenets.

Muslims from 17 countries to visit Gaza

Islamabad: Daily Ummah / Jasarat, October 08, 2010. Five hundred protestors from 17 countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India, will visit Gaza to support Palestine against Israel. Volunteers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Oman, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt will assemble in a caravan under the banner of Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine which will move from Delhi on December 2, 2010. The convener of the Gaza Caravan, Feroze Meethi Borwala, said that the Caravan will move from Wagha to Gaza via Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Beirut. The Caravan will return to Turkey and will sail to Gaza and attempt to break the Israeli siege.

Shahid Raheem is a Media Researcher with ORF

Indian Army attack across LoC using surgical strikes meant to probe Pakistan’s threshold for escalation

By publicly owning up to having carried out surgical strikes across the LoC — the Indian Army has called the adversary’s bluff.

 Indian Army,LoC,MEA,Pakistan,surgical strike
File Photo

In a dramatic turn of events, the Indian Army on Thursday confirmed that it had carried out surgical strikes against “terrorist launch pads” across the LoC last night. The Director General of Military Operation (DGMO) Lt. Gen Ranbir Singh revealed that these strikes were to neutralise imminent infiltration into Indian territory. The targets of this infiltration bid, according to Lt. Gen. Singh, were in Kashmir as well as other Indian cities. While the details of this operation are unknown at this time, the DGMO has suggested that the surgical strikes were extremely successful in neutralising a significant number of infiltrators and their supporters. It is likely that the strikes were also aimed at forward positions of the Pakistani Army along the LoC that has provided cover fire — and other support — to infiltrators in the past.

While this may not be the first time Indian armed forces have carried out surgical strikes across the LoC, a few details stand out in the manner they were disclosed.

First, by publicly disclosing the strikes, India has signalled that it is not afraid to neutralise terrorists from across the border even in the face of escalation. The conventional argument behind keeping such operations plausibly deniable in the past has been that such deniability robs the other side of the initiative to draw international attention to a violation of its territory, and escalate by claiming that their retaliation was purely defensive in nature. By publicly owning up to having carried out surgical strikes across the LoC, the Indian Army has called the adversary’s bluff that any cross-LoC/cross-border action will inexorably go out of hand — and therefore deter India from carrying out any such action in the first place.

This successful operation against terrorists and their backers in the Pakistan army will serve as an important probe to test Pakistan’s threshold for escalation. Having been unable to respond to Indian action significantly weakens the image of the Pakistani state’s praetorian guards and shows what a section of analysts had suspected all along — that surgical strikes carried out with precision, and with an element of surprise will not cross the adversary’s red-lines to expand its retaliation. Simply put, these strikes, and their public announcement, have called Pakistan’s bluff.

Second, the optics of the press conference itself were interesting. The side-by-side appearance of the DGMO and the MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup was to signal to Pakistan — and the rest of the world — that India’s action was a response to what it perceives as Pakistan’s attempt to imperil the Indian state through proxy warfare. And that, military action is now an integral part of India’s foreign policy towards Pakistan. After a week-long — and rather sterile debate — on what role ‘strategic restraint’ plays in Indian foreign policy, the Modi government seems to have chosen to send a message to the other side that such a posture cannot indeed be taken as granted. Furthermore, the presence of the MEA spokesperson alongside the DGMO signals that the decision to strike at targets across Pakistan was the result of unanimity across the strategic-policy community that it is no longer ‘business-as-usual’ when it comes to Pakistan, and that these strikes should be viewed as a part of a larger Indian cohesive offensive against Pakistan which now includes military as well as diplomatic components.

As we wait further details, a few questions remain open. As the news of successful Indian surgical strikes reaches the Pakistani public, there would almost invariably be calls to avenge this perceived Indian intransigence. Would Pakistani public opinion be such that Rawalpindi and Islamabad would be forced to double down on Kashmir, and perhaps prepare to militarily respond to this affront? While this is unlikely — the Pakistani army is not exactly a public-opinion driven entity — India will have to carefully watch out for a counter-response, both along the LoC and the international border. Pakistan is about to carry out a major military exercise with its strike corps along latter in the coming days and, at this stage, Indian authorities should not entirely discount the possibility of Pakistani adventurism in face of a public backlash.

Then there is the larger question of whether such strikes — at the end of the day — can indeed deter Pakistan from pursuing its Kashmir programme with help from proxies. As American analysts Geroge Perkovich and Toby Dalton in their recent book on India’s options to end Pakistan’s support for cross-border terrorism point out, while such strikes may have immediate tactical effects — such as neutralising imminent cross-over of Pakistan-backed terrorists to Indian territory — these strikes may be of limited value in forcing a fundamental rethink among Pakistan’s military elite regarding the use of proxies to prosecute its Kashmir policies.

Having said this, Wednesday night’s strikes do signal a new phase in the India-Pakistan dynamic where India is no longer only at the receiving end of Pakistan’s provocation. Such strikes — carried out at will by Indian army as and when it receives actionable intelligence — will most definitely signal Pakistan that India is not afraid to up the ante as and when it sees fit.

This commentary originally appeared in FirstPost.