Army chief: "Will retaliate at the time and place of choosing” - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 14 January 2013

Army chief: "Will retaliate at the time and place of choosing”

Army chief says family of Indian soldier beheaded on the LoC as important to him as the families of the 90 other soldiers who died this last year

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th Jan 13

Six days after two Indian soldiers were ambushed and mutilated on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, and just minutes before a senior Indian commander conveyed a strong protest to his Pakistani counterpart at a flag meeting near Poonch, in J&K, India’s army chief, General Bikram Singh ratcheted up the rhetoric, warning Pakistan that India would retaliate.

“We reserve the right to retaliate at the time and place of choosing,” said the army chief.

Gen Singh asserted that Indian troops would respond aggressively whenever provoked, instead of restraining themselves by the ceasefire, as in the past. “I wish to assure you that I have given very clear directions in this regard. I have told the Northern Army Commander that we must maintain and retain moral ascendancy (over Pakistani troops) at all costs.”

“We shall uphold the ceasefire as long as the adversary upholds it. But we shall not be passive when we are fired at. When we are fired at, when we are provoked, we will respond immediately. And also to heinous acts of this kind which were committed at Mendhar sector on the 8th,” he said.

Terming the killings and mutilation of Indian soldiers “a gruesome act, a most unpardonable act… that is against the very ethics of soldiering and professionalism,” General Bikram Singh warned that the beheading of a soldier’s body would impact on broader Indo-Pakistan relations.

“Militarily this operation is at the tactical level but it has got strategic nuances… and our concerns have been conveyed to the Government of Pakistan by our government,” he said.

Even while recognising the potential for tactical actions to spiral out of control, unleashing strategic consequences, Gen Singh paradoxically claimed his LoC commanders would respond as aggressively as they deemed fit to provocations by Pakistan.

“Operations would be undertaken as per the plans made at the theatre level. We would not be (vetting) these plans at the Army HQ, where we operate in the strategic arena… Tactical is left to the corps commanders, the div commanders.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which manages the Indo-Pak dialogue process, is watching the rhetoric carefully. A senior diplomat, speaking off-the-record to Business Standard, said that the MEA understood the need to cater to outraged public sentiment, but was also concerned that the dialogue process could be destabilised.

The dialogue currently centres on issues that New Delhi holds important, i.e. trade and commerce, transit and travel and terrorism, with inconvenient subjects like Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek placed on the back burner. During nine years of relative peace on the LoC (the ceasefire came into effect on Dec 26, 2003), Pakistan has moved out some 70,000 soldiers for counter terrorist operations in the tribal areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Even though the last year has seen 117 ceasefire violations, many of them during 62 bids by militants to infiltrate across the LoC, the army chief termed the LoC as largely peaceful. Most violations took place in just two sectors: Uri and Poonch.

With firing along the LoC claiming over a hundred Indian soldiers’ lives each year before the ceasefire, at least a thousand soldiers’ lives have been notionally saved over nine years of ceasefire.

While citing the mutilation and beheading of Indian soldiers as the reason for his outrage, Gen Singh conceded that this was not the first such instance. He admitted that Pakistani soldiers had beheaded some soldiers of 20 Kumaon last year, and others from a Rajput battalion in 2011.

Rejecting media accounts that the Pakistani raid at Mendhar was in response to an Indian raid on a Pakistani post in Uri on Jan 6, the army chief alleged that the “pre-mediated and pre-planned” Pakistani attack was previously orchestrated, since it came within 50 hours after the alleged Indian raid in Uri.

“Such operations require time for planning… it requires reconnaissance. In other words, their (Pakistan’s) troops were poised for this operation. Therefore this entire information campaign, which was launched by them, which is based on lies, has to be understood in the correct perspective,” says General Singh.

When asked what might have motivated the Pakistan Army to launch such an operation, Gen Singh said that the army was still analysing the matter, but it could be because Pakistan wants the LoC to become active again; or to boost their status within Pakistan.


  1. "The MEA understood the need to cater to outraged public sentiment"? Please. The Indian people are not children who need to be calmed down by Appa's soothing words. They want solutions.

    I am open to perhaps increasing trade and transit. The Pakistani people need to be freed from their jihadist mindset, and perhaps contact with India is the way to do it. (India offers religious freedom, and Pakistan does not.)

    However, this barbarism must be punished. Col. Shukla, what are your thoughts about reviving CIT-X?

    It was brutal, yes, but it worked.

  2. Here is B. Raman:

    "Between 1981 and 1997, the Prime Ministers in office followed a dual policy of "talk, talk, hit, hit" against Pakistan. They never fought shy of talking to Pakistani leaders and officials. At the same time, they never missed an opportunity to undermine the State of Pakistan covertly in retaliation against its covert actions against India.

    Since 1997, our policy has been reduced to one of talk, talk and more talk with no retaliation even covertly. Our political leadership and large sections of our bureaucracy have no concept of the importance of covert action in an asymmetric proxy war. That is the tragedy of our country."

  3. If the act of beheading an Indian soldier is barbaric and unpardonable, how would the army chief describe the beheading of an Indian soldier by the Pakistani army. Does he deny this happens (because eyewitnesses and defence/military sources both suggest it does)? Or does he find it equally unpardonable?

  4. Talking over the head of slain solider and some people wants Army (and her chief) and county to focus on strategic goal? What's so strategic left in the life of widow of slain countrymen who could not even receive a proper funeral? What country do we speak about, who's country do we? Isn't this country of Veer Heemraj? How insulted Heemraj doesn't equals to insulted Bharat?

    We can lay down and draw our points of benefit at stake, strategic and so on. But it will change nothing with the fact that a grossly inferior nation has shown its willingness to insult you at will and cemented its belief by repeating such actions countless many time!

  5. Colonel Sir, could you please answer me this, I know I have asked you this before. Why on earth don't any Indian Army soldiers, Officers and ORs alike, shape their berets anymore? Don't you think turnout is a reflection on morale? And why are those third rate baseball caps replacing berets among junior ranks?

  6. The simple QUESTION is that if
    Pakistan WANTS to RE IGNITE the LOC
    Will INDIA REQUEST Pakistan for PEACE


    Secondly what will happen if ALL the SUICIDE BOMBERS and TERRORISTS and
    MILITANTS decide to STORM THE LOC Along with Pakistan Army and SSG Commandos

  7. Col. Shukla

    An observation - You clearly look like a man wanting to say more than you can on TV on the history of India-Pak beheadings but ironically your blog posts on this issue are positively anodyne.

    Not looking for cheap war titillation here but if you are really trying to balance out the rhetoric and warmongering from India's side, you might want to break the Omerta for a larger good.

  8. Mein Oberst, you are obviously in some alternate reality. I invite you to read what superduperjingos like me have written on BaRF to get a dose of reality. The Army chief is a pusillanimous political appointee, whose body language and choice of words betrayed a very dovish and weak stance on India-Pakistan relations. He has been bought out by the Aman-Ki-Tamasha crowd and is obviously helping Constable Singh get the Nobel he covets so much.

  9. Pakistan announces they are reviewing their military doctrine to focus on terrorists. Not long after, a border incident occurs. Are the two events related?

  10. "Inconvenient issues like Kashmir, Siachen & Sir Creek...." Inconvenient for whom ? For yellow journalists like you ? What about Mumbai Terror attack ? Is that too is inconvenient for you ? And for you that is relative PEACE? What BS is this ?

  11. I would like some one to help me answer how we can let 20 solders last year beheaded without any responses.. I was hoping if col shukla can help me understand. How can army exist if the opposing army has been doing this for some time and how can you call India army professional when it's solders are subjected to this gruesome acts and not taken any measures to stop.. Which army on this earth will respect this shot hole of country like India if someone who has smaller army, lack sophisticated equipment dominates a millions army.... Nice buy more equipment

  12. I don't understand why people keep ratcheting up 'strategic goals'. How can you achieve strategic goals with a headless and directionless entity? Even assuming we achieve the goals, what are the chances that the pakis will honour their commitments?
    They're all just a bunch of wild dogs acting on the whims and fancies of their pack leaders. Strategic goals vis-a-vis Pakistan is a moot point.
    The army should be given the go-ahead to plan and execute a tactical response the way they see fit.

  13. I don't know if Gen Bikram Singh is really putting money where his mouth is or he is just calming down general anger by feeding so-called brave words. Nevertheless if latter is not the case then kudos to him no matter what.

  14. The Indian media, especially TV news channels, is a motley horde of predominantly 40-year olds who are clueless about military tactics, strategy and reporting norms. Their present role of playing war-mongers is the nadir or informed media reporting. Sad but true.

    The sight of the family of the beheaded RAJ RIF soldier fasting in protest for the return of his head revealed the sad Indian psyche of capitulation and putting everything before the Nation; it was no different than the Indians demonstrating in front of the PM's official residence in 1999/2000 demanding that hostages on IC-814 be released at any cost resulting in the humiliating conveyance of Pak terrorists to Kandhar aboard an Indian aircraft with the Indian Home Minister. What about the numerous other Indian soldiers who had suffered a similar manner of mutilation in 2011 or earlier? Their families never raised a hue and cry? Didn't they deserve a similar consideration? And we now expect Pak to 'return' the head? Seriously, the matter's been taken up through diplomatic channels and at the flag meeting at Chakan ka Bagh! Come on, are we that daft? We expect Pakis to acknowledge the brutality by 'returning the head' in a teeny-weeny coffin / casket with their sincere regrets!!! Incredible! Inshallah, they are as daft as we think them to be.

    The brouhaha and hype created over the latest incident involving 13 RAJ RIF by vested Indian interests including the Govt and the Army has quite evidently backfired on us. It is said that the Govt wanted a diversion / breather from the Delhi gang-rape agitation whereas the Army may have wanted to justify tactical 'indiscretions' in Churunda or elsewhere. The media has hijacked the entire issue and raised a hysterically shrill, uninformed and sensational campaign. Amidst the din, the dead soldier's family is now (unfairly) DEMANDING an Ashok Chakra for the deceased soldier! For what? Courage under fire?

    From the COAS's news conference, it was clear that the soldiers may have been surprised by the enemy as a result of a tactical goof-up. How can a isolated three-man listening/observation post be employed beyond the influence of main defences in the surcharged environment when a enemy response was expected in the manner it ultimately materialised? Prima facie, more answers are required from the Indian chain of command !


  15. ...Contd

    It was also surprising to hear the play with words at the press conference. 'The Indian Army did not conduct any operation across the LC on 06 Jan 2013...etc etc'; so did we do it on the 5th or 7th? Why did we not create a ruckus initially when Pakis fired at civilian habitation in Churunda ? We, instead, probably chose to neutralise the Pak domination by employing snipers from the Indian side of the LC to engage their OP(s). We may not have violated the LC physically but did so by fire. Pak probably lost a couple of soldiers and hence chose to retaliate at a place, time and mode of its own choosing. We would have done likewise. Period.

    There was also an implied suggestion that the Pak action was premeditated, given the speed and robustness ('brutality') of its response. This suggestion defies established tactical teaching whereby LC units are forever expected to be prepared to launch tactical operations, almost at a whim, to neutralise local irritants within a very short time of receiving the go ahead. These plans are constantly reviewed, honed and even rehearsed so as to cut down any delay once a decision is taken. Grant the Pakis similar tactical acumen!!!

    We had the COAS direct his commanders on the LC to be aggressive, strive for moral ascendancy, retaliate effectively etc., during his Army Day eve press 'briefing'. It was like Lord Krishna's comforting sermons to a confused Arjuna before joining battle at Kurukshetra.

    In contra-distinction Pakis took the shortcut aggressive approach to gaining instant moral ascendancy - retaliate silently (no firing, NO MEDIA), swiftly and demonstratively at opportune trans-LC targets; in doing so leave a message by decapitating and taking away a head of a slain Indian soldier! In fact, hitting a RAJ RIF unit may have been a part of a design as the incumbent Northern Army Commander is the Colonel of the RAJ RIF regiment.

    It is amusing to see the No of people who are milking the present incident for various considerations - political brownie points, career refurbishment, image projection, TRP ratings and general farting in the air. When will we grow up?

    Is there a lesson somewhere?

  16. Writing with hopes that high-profile Army guys read this blog(and the comments) AND Col. Shukla will not delete.

    Kindly communicate to Army Chief Mr. Bikram Singh that a concerned citizen is disheartened with sorry state of our nation that even Army Chief is reduced to a talking head akin to our PM.(Talk talk no action) He, in the process of adhering to political will, is diminishing the respect for army in the eyes of aam admi. PM बकवास करता है, अब तो सेनाध्यक्षभी राजनेताओ की तरह बकते है | इस भारत माँ के बेटे हो और एक सच्चे क्षत्रिय/सैनिक हो तो let the GUNS do the talking and avenge the deaths. WE R NOT INTERESTED IN UR SPEECHES. Kandhar hi-jack,Sansad attack, countless small town attacks like Ahmedabad/Delhi/Jaipur etc,26/11, soldiers beheading. Do you want me to put more comprehensive list? What kind of dick-less 1.2 billion Indians we have amassed whom enemy targets at the time and location he pleases AGAIN AND AGAIN? Even more importantly what kind of Army leadership we have cultivated which is UNABLE to rally political class in the national interest? Will it take at least one life lost to terrorism from every Indian family for the politicians/Army leadership to retaliate/act rather than talk like a sissy kid complaining every-time such instance takes place?

  17. Shukla, dance baby dance for ur congress masters

  18. USA: You attack me, I'll attack you

    Israel: You attack me, I'll demolish you.I
    India: You attack me, I'll not play cricket with you. Call us war mongers, we'll send your hockey players back. Katti :-(

  19. Shuklaji Your VIEWS on NDTV
    to say the LEAST

    You have turned into a younger version of Mani Shankar aiyar

    That Mani Shankar Aiyar is an OLD SENILE Man

    But what MAGIC have the PAKIS Done to you that you FIND the Anger amongst Indians as IMMATURE

    Why the HELL we should care about
    FRIENDSHIP with Pakis

  20. First you escalate by not lobbing few shells on to our side (which is normal) but by sending a raiding party, which incidently left some small arms behind in a rush to get back to their side.

    PA responds in a manner it has been training since the cold start doctorine, to respond much much faster with force and focus. They did this extremely well. As the writer above mentioned this is what a professional army is expected to do.

    IA misjudged PAs response and remorse/embarrsment for its loss turned to tears and it became the laughing stock in the world. Professional armed forces do not behave this way. When our chiefs speak the words are like steel and are listened to.

  21. @ so called "SherKhan".

    Papu when you aren't embarrassed by 3 straight defeats, with one defeat being still a world record in Guinness Book of world records, why do you think we should be embarrassed with this little skirmish.

    Time will reveal steel of your COAS. Your last COAS, after defeat in Kargil is rat holed in Kafir imperialist Capital. Probably, he lost his steel in Kargil or Pakistan Supreme Court. Papu please clarify?? seems like you know all Pakistan COAS (past and present) very intimately. Buddy, keep the intimacy going, when hell gets loose in your country, this intimacy will see you easily transported to holy lands of Arabia.


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