Lt Gen (r) HS Panag suggests that surgical strikes could actually be part of India’s National Defence narrative; while forgetting that any misadventure and miscalculation from Indian side would actually place this region of over 1.5 billion people at the risk of a nuclear exchange “Surgical strikes” mania rules Indian media because it allows the nation a moment of military bravado and it creates the aura that India’s overt military doctrine for the western front is actually working. “Surgical strikes” maniacs actually ‘celebrated’ the first anniversary of its self-proclaimed “surgical strikes” over what it claims to be “along the Line of Control” – and actually not inside any part of Pakistan – on September 29, 2017. One remains surprised as to where that strikes took place. Indian media proudly reported it as the truth, but international media could find no signs of any Indian intrusion in the areas they claimed to have “surgically struck” in Azad Kashmir. The Pakistan Army took foreign correspondents to visit areas where India claimed it had conducted surgical strikes, so they could see for themselves the naked farce of the Indian claim. After a year, the real question still remains: whether the surgical strikes were actually ever conducted by India, or not? The Indian DGMO, in his media briefing, vaguely said that India conducted surgical strikes to eliminate terrorist launchpads ‘along’ the LoC and the terrorists “suffered heavy losses”. He gave no details about the number of ‘terrorists’ killed, locations, tactics, strategy, methodology, terrorists’ affiliation(s), etc. Most importantly, the DMGO never claimed that his forces crossed the LoC or the border. He used ambiguous and deliberately imprecise phrases such as “along the LoC” or “LoC kay nazdeek” (near the LoC). The DGMO didn’t allow the media to ask any questions: instead, they were given an unconvincing press release, and the details were not officially released. Therefore, from the outset, the “surgical strikes” looked like fabricated stories being presented, promoted and propagated without any thorough investigation of the truth, and of ground reality! Technically, the strikes cannot be conducted – by either side – because the whole LoC has a 3-layer security system with fences, barbed wires and lighting. There is no way a person can cross these hurdles without getting too much attention from both the sides, let alone half a dozen teams of 20 soldiers each. Heli-borne or air-dropped soldiers can cross the border, but that creates another problem: how will those soldiers be extracted safely after the mission is complete? The airborne vehicle has to land somewhere for exfiltration; this will be highly unlikely due to heavy fire from the Pakistani forces. The PAF was also on high alert, and that meant that there was a high risk of retaliation from PAF jets as well. The fact is that India is not capable of conducting a surgical strike against Pakistan: the Indian military is neither trained nor equipped for surgical strikes. It neither has armed UAVs nor stealth aircraft. Boots on the ground – and that too for four hours – will cause significant casualties on both sides The Indian media claimed that the strikes were carried out within 3km of LoC. This doesn’t make sense: 3km on which side? India has precision-guided munitions which were used during Kargil conflict as well. If they have credible information, as was said by the DGMO, why would they risk the lives of their soldiers and escalation by sending boots on ground? They can achieve this goal by simply bombing those targets from the Indian side of the LoC. The fact is that India is not capable of conducting a surgical strike against Pakistan. It neither has armed UAVs nor stealth aircraft. Boots on the ground – and that too for four hours – will cause significant casualties on both sides. The Indian Army was also compelled to stage a fake drama because of political reasons. The Diplomat magazine on September 30, 2016 published a story by Shawn Snow, a veteran of US Marine Corps, denouncing India’s false claim who stated that “surgical strikes could only be conducted through airborne or artillery-based precision-guided strikes or ground force-based assaults; both of which required sophisticated intelligence collection, platforms to conduct collections, and surveillance of target sites and objectives. India is still on the cusp of building a sophisticated and modernised asymmetrical capability to conduct counter-terror operations, while much of its forces are still organised and trained on Cold War models”. New Delhi understands well that Pakistan – unable to match with India’s ongoing weapons-buying spree – has the nuclear deterrent, and would utilise it instead of waiting to engage in conventional war with an enemy that has piles and piles of conventional weapons. By flooding the media with such propaganda, India wants to push this region towards instability and divert Pakistan’s attention and resources from economic development to conflict. The author is a researcher based in Islamabad Published in Daily Times, October 3rd 2017.