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Politics Revolving Around The Surgical Strike

Indrani Chaudhuri Oct 6, 20165 Responses

Amidst all the hype created about the dynamics being altered by Modi in India's security policies and the new dimension being given to strategic deterrence, little is being discussed as to why our Prime Minister publicized a supposedly covert operation, that too overnight and without even providing with sufficient evidence. 

As General Singh declared that “launch pads” have been neutralised, it however remains a much contentious issue as to whether these "launch pads" hold enough importance in real politik. In the literature of cross-border terrorism, centres initiating actual assaults are the most inconsequential part of the terrorist command chain. No matter how much India takes pride in the numbers of the fatalities on the other side of the LoC, India must not forget that these were not “terror camps” from where the actual plotting is done.

In fact these camps were not even training centres where either mercenaries or disgruntled youth were trained as to how they would conduct terrorist strikes. Thus, clearly, they bear little or no significance and it appears as if they were nothing but a score of mere foot soldiers.

Besides, as the media is busy sensationalizing the entire issue and has conveniently projected Modi as the new 'Hero', who just seemed to have stunned the entire world and not only Pakistan, is quite a stupid depiction to my mind. 


Pakistan in anyway would have expected Modi to strike after the Uri attack, given the aggressive attitude that Modi has exhibited in his tenure. In fact  numerous reports suggested that the strikes were not one-off events on Thursday night, they were preceded by a series of strikes, possibly within 72 hours of the Uri attack. 

Besides this is not the first time that India has sent Special Forces across the border and neutralised hit squads of different Pakistan-supported terror groups. It was well in practice even in the late 1990s and early 2000s and this tactic was used by UPA too. However what makes this an unprecedented event is that for the first time a Prime Minister has claimed the ownership.


Indian soldiers as patrolled a barbed-wire fence on the Line of Control, north west of Srinagar, India, Dec. 4, 2003.


But then the question that immediately pops up is why would Modi do that? What could be the gains that look more promising to Modi despite of the fact that this particular move might invite him international isolation and serious condemnation from powers that matter! 


Modi here would try to maximise his political gains. With elections ahead in states of  Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand and the mounting pressure that is being built by people, questioning his leadership, Modi will obviously try to use this surgical attack as a weapon to establish his pre-eminence over his predecessors.

While Modi thought that this much celebrated surgical strike would deter Pakistan from pursuing further military advancement and abort its terrorist activities, it rather bore the opposite outcome.  The Pakistani media already has now claimed that it has killed eight Indian soldiers in return, and captured one alive. Infact such strikes would at best heat up the LoC, where both countries have concentrated their military infrastructure over the decades. In the meanwhile India stops recognising its own "capability crunch", despite a sharp increase in material resources. India seems to be  incapable of accepting that Pakistan is proactively shaping its strategic environment and pushing New Delhi into making mistakes in dealing with dissent in Jammu and Kashmir; or that Islamabad cares little about international diplomatic isolation.


Even though now it's clear that why it was politically expedient for the Indian government to declare its actions, the fact is that publicising such operations is tricky. It confuses who the target audience really is, and sets unwieldy expectations of the public, i.e. a desire for “revenge” risks becoming an end unto itself.

 If the message was meant for Islamabad—as it should have been—then it is futile to make it public without clear long-term strategic benefits. Pakistan has not been deterred in the past, and is unlikely to change its approach based on such strikes.

 Yes, it can credibly be argued that this surgical strike came in combination with India’s proactive diplomatic activism to isolate Pakistan, regionally and globally. However it's difficult to say whether this would yield the desired strategic benefits.

This is precisely because, Pakistan’s geopolitical positioning, military culture, domestic socio-political tensions, and advanced nuclear capabilities, has made it internationally unavoidable. No big power, be it the US, UK, Germany, France, Russia, or China, would easily bestow the title of a pariah or terrorist state on Pakistan. The latest joint Russia-Pakistan military exercise is an indicator, whatever Moscow’s intent might be behind such defense engagement with Islamabad.

 Pakistan is an “Interface State”, as Christophe Jaffrelot presciently explained, that is comfortable in building strong patron-client relations with world powers (first the US, and now China). This ensures Pakistan’s enduring strategic relevance despite domestic and external tensions. Thus the the threat of international isolation is not a credible one to Pakistan of all.
Another factor that could possibly have prompted Modi from taking such a drastic step is promoting Mlitary Industrial Complex that plays a pivotal role in Modi's administration.
As the last one year has seen India’s military modernisation process slowly picking up pace in terms of clearances for critical military hardware, with an emphasis on ‘Make in India’, the present government is also subjected to severe criticism with the expenditure on defense soaring incessantly.

The direct purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, effectively scrapping the long-delayed Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft contract for 126 fighter jets, several long-held-up deals including those for Kamov utility helicopters, Avro aircraft replacement and approval of artillery guns couldn't do much to save the present government from public backlash.

 The delay in the execution of 'Make in India' that had promised to reduce imports and move towards technological sovereignty  is causing disillusionment in several quarters, including in the private sector, which never had a level playing field in the defense sector, dominated as it is by public sector undertakings. Another critical aspect in developing domestic military capability involves reforming the defence R&D laboratories and production facilities. While a lot has been said on revamping and making accountable the public sector, the fact that the top R&D body, the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has been without a full-time head for several months now, reflects poorly on the intent.  India’s defence manufacturing landscape is, however, changing with the private sector stepping in. Private sector companies were initially reluctant to work for the government because there was no guarantee the weapons they were subcontracting for would be purchased by the armed forces. But then Modi has quite effectively taken the charge of involving private sector companies and this might exactly explain as to why Modi would be interested in promoting Military Industrial Complex.


India cleared the purchase of the S-400 air defense missile for $4.5 billion in December 2015. A week later, Reliance Defense signed an agreement with Russia’s Almaz-Antey, manufacturer of the S-400, to jointly develop and maintain a variety of weapons for India’s military. TOR-1M missiles, radars and automated control systems come under the scope of the deal.



Russian, Indian companies to co-produce coastal defence systems

Interestingly, Reliance Defense is a complete newcomer with zero experience in the defense industry. Despite this, the Anil Ambani-owned company has received approval for 12 industrial licences for manufacturing aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, all-terrain combat vehicles, night-vision devices, sensors, navigation and surveillance equipment, propulsion systems and simulators.

In this backdrop, the deal with Almaz-Antey looks like Reliance’s attempt to forge close ties with Russia to jump start its ambitions to develop a defense business from scratch. 

Mention may also be made of  the Mumbai-based company Godrej's missile project that got started with the signing of a MoU between BrahMos, Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL) and Godrej in August 2000, has further developed under the auspices of Modi. 

 India's Brahmos missile model during the Defexpo India 2014, in New Delhi. Source: EPA


High octane defense deals are often the most exciting part of India-Russia summits. Even  the Russian military establishment has chosen Anil Ambani’s Pipavav Shipyard to build three to four Talwar-class frigates (Project 11345) for the Indian Navy.

As India’s turbocharged economy grows, its military is being upsized to keep in step. With the country’s political leadership having shed its decades long – and short sighted – Gandhian policy of treating weapons with a mixture of contempt and shame, India is no longer shy of manufacturing and exporting high-octane defense hardware. These are exciting times for India’s private sector defense companies and Russia has got off to a strong start by finding well-connected partners for joint ventures and also France and Israel look promising as far as import of weapons are concerned. 

Thus from the above analysis, one thing is very clear that Modi is not only under the pressure of foreign players like USA, France, Israel and Russia, but he also has to stand the forces being created by domestic business giants like Reliance, Godrej, Tata, etc. who obviously played a decisive role in the election. Besides Modi also bears the responsibility of developing an indigenous military hardware. Thus, in owning up the act, Modi has in a way justified the increasing expenditure that he assigned to defense and also kept his assurances alive by promoting Military Industrial Complex. This should not come as a surprise given Modi's sharp business acumen which he has demonstrated time and again.


However India must wait and anticipate the retaliation from the other side of the border. To expect the opponent not to react because they have remained in denial mode would be foolhardy. In fact  Modi’s future strategy will be greatly determined by the response from across the border. Developments over the next few days will shape the future direction of the Modi narrative and would prove how worthy a move Modi has taken.




References on request
  • Jaydeep-Sen
    Jaydeep Sen

    Fine tuned <3

  • Rinita-Mazumdar
    Rinita Mazumdar

    Interesting analysis, specially about the military industrial complex. One thing missing, perhaps it is not within the scope of this paper, is the disjoint between Pakistani administration and military administration, what role each plays and what kind of love hate relationship they have in maintaining these "terror camps", what are the times when they cooperate and the times when they are at the verge of a divorce, which to a large extent drives if the USA, Russia, and China are using them as their backyard either to sell weapons or to stave of another regional power. 

  • Debopama-Sinha
    Debopama Sinha

    I can only imagine the amount of research that has gone into creating this piece of work! Interesting insights and this can be read as an analysis of the much discussed surgical strike, the agenda behind and the possible ramifications effectively presented in a nutshell. Looking forward to more such articles. :) 

  • Munavvir-Musthafa
    Munavvir Musthafa

    its second time, for  which i had a  good fortune of reading Indrani's write ups. As usual ,  this time also she picked up one  of the colorful topic happened recently in sub continents political space  and it was a unique, throat provoking and it gives us a different angle of uri and post uri incidents. She illustrated a very different  perspective  by bringing up military industrial complex's possible involvements( to make a suitable platform for pumping up exchequers money to  private  players in defense sector)  and elections in couple of states which is about to happen in next 2-3 months .The best thing is that she didn't mixed up emotions or  any  kind of ultra nationalistic sentiments in her article  which was much much different than most of the  articles flooded in cyber space after URI attack and successive surgical strike  carried out by India in response

     looking forward to have more such things from you, Best Wishes


  • smita_amit226886001462540339
    Smita Jain

    Interesting read. all this publicity on what should have stayed a covert operation does speak of some ulterior motives on part of the higher ups. Was/ is there no fear of repercussions ? One can only hope that there is a well thought out strategy, one that will not backfire.