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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (April 2019)

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In stark contrast to the practice prevailing worldwide, India has gone public with an air strike on Balakote in Khyber Pakhtunwa province of Pakistan. Almost all countries that are compelled to mount clandestine raids, ground or air, tend to keep them that way, quiet and silent. This is the second action claimed by India, the previous one being a trans-Line of Control raid in September 2016. Another raid in Myanmar was initially claimed and then quietly dropped. This is quite unlike the practice of other countries, including Israel behind whom a number of Indian national security players seem to mould them.

Israel mounts more air and ground actions than most countries combined, probably. Its circumstances, a benign air defence environment, and complete technical superiority allows it to operate relatively undisturbed. Despite such ease of operations, Israel never claims its actions, not even the spectacularly successful ones. It does acknowledge when it loses a soldier or when an airman is captured. Then it would leave no stone unturned to recover them, alive or even the mortal remains. Since 11 September 2001, the United States has conducted scores of overt and covert campaigns against terrorists. While some get acknowledged; most remain under cloaks.

This then begs two questions as regards India’s actions. Firstly, what is the end purpose of the actions conducted and claimed? And secondly, how efficacious are the actions in achieving that end purpose? Answering both questions requires a calm and clinical frame of mind, devoid of emotions and sentiments. Whilst being realistic about prevailing conditions, nationally, regionally and globally. The stated aim of both actions was to mount reprisals for terrorist actions carried out by Pakistan based Jaish-e- Mohammad (JeM). The first provocation was an 18 September 2016 attack on the Uri garrison that resulted in a large of number of army casualties. And, the second was a suicide car bomb attack on a Central Reserve Police Force bus on 14 February 2019 which killed 40 troopers. Both were claimed by JeM, and India retaliated at a time and place of its own choosing. India declared that its Special Forces carried out a ground raid across the LOC at the end of September 2016. On 26 February 2019, India announced that it had mounted air strikes on a JeM camp in Balakot using Mirage combat aircraft.

Nations normally never make announcements about special operations conducted. The few exceptions include the famous Operation Neptune Spear when the US Navy Seals had killed Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The global value of that announcement far outweighs operational secrecy that governs Special Forces’ tactics and skills. The targets sought to be neutralised in September 2016 could not be in the same league as Osama Bin Laden. Similarly, with the Balakot stand-off attack and the JeM camps affectively destroyed. So, the first question remains unanswered. As for the second question, a single raid or a stand-off air strike doesn’t destroy terrorism infrastructure and neither does it diminish the desire to continue the policy of carrying out terrorist activities. A lot more needs to be done, for a longer period, in a myriad ways. So, a counter-question to the first one could pave the way for an answer. Was the end purpose of conducting and claiming reprisal actions aimed at influencing India, rather than the perpetrators?


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