Army silent as soldier, “surgical strikes”, feature in BJP election posters - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 8 October 2016

Army silent as soldier, “surgical strikes”, feature in BJP election posters

After Kargil war, General VP Malik had asked Vajpayee to stop NDA from using army images

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th Oct 16

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal decision not to publicly release video proof of the September 28 “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control (LoC), the Pakistan Army has been allowed to save face and a route left open for de-escalating the on-going Indo-Pakistan confrontation, with India having had the last word.

In contrast to the army’s measured tone towards Pakistan --- with Indian generals informing their Rawalpindi counterparts that “We don’t have a plan to further conduct such strikes” --- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is assiduously milking the military’s success in on-going electoral campaigns in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur.

The BJP’s election posters in UP have military imagery in the background, with an armed soldier and a reference to the “surgical strikes”. In the foreground stands Modi, clenched fist upraised, threatening Pakistan. Neither the army chief, nor Army Headquarters (HQ) has yet objected.

The traditionally apolitical army had taken a more principled stand after the victorious Kargil campaign in 1999, when politicians similarly tried to piggyback on the military’s success. Then army chief, General VP Malik, in his book, “Kargil: From Surprise to Victory”, reveals he complained to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee about National Democratic Alliance (NDA) election posters that featured the three military chiefs. Vajpayee ensured it did not happen again.

Malik also describes “a large band of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) representatives” descending upon Army HQ on August 23, 1999, carrying party and religious symbols and 20,000 rakhis for the troops in Kargil.

“They had brought along half-a-dozen photographers and insisted on meeting the Army chief (me). When they were refused permission, they forced their way into the Media Cell offices and handed over the rakhis to the staff, making sure that the TV cameras caught all the action. From the next day onwards, entry into [Army HQ] was further restricted”, writes Malik.

In a paragraph that resonates today, Malik says: “The armed forces were anguished because they were getting sucked into electoral politics as a result of the blatant effort to politicize the war for immediate electoral advantage. At one stage, in desperation, I had to send across a strong message through the media: ‘Leave us alone; we are apolitical’.”

The current army chief has not trodden this principled path. For now, the army is understandably happy that the BJP government’s pro-activeness allowed it to turn the humiliation of losing 18 soldiers in the Uri attack on September 18 into the cross-LoC success just eleven days later.

It is unclear how long this confluence of interests will continue, since the BJP is not content with the spotlight focused on the army. The government wants the lion’s share of the credit for having shown Pakistan its place.

This was evident a day after the “surgical strikes”, when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, electioneering in Uttarakhand, compared the army with the mythological monkey-God, Hanuman, in needing to be reminded of its powers. “I only made the army aware of the powers it already possessed and it succeeded. On Modiji’s instructions, the army did a brilliant job”, he said.

On Friday, Amit Shah demonstrated how the BJP is associating its image with that of the army, while putting Modi front-and-centre in claiming credit. He stated: “the achievement is the army’s, but the determination and political intent is Prime Minister Modi’s.”

Shah is unapologetic about using the “surgical strikes” as an electoral issue, stating: “We will go to the people with this issue --- because every responsible party should motivate the army.”

The government and the BJP are also using the army to deflect any criticism, whether political or strategic. Whenever asked to release video evidence of the strikes, or to brief prominent political leaders, BJP spokespersons have argued forcefully that “questioning our brave soldiers” amounts to anti-nationalism; and, indeed, acting as a front for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

With every major political party calculating that it would be politically suicidal to question an army that is riding high on public popularity, there is little penetrative interrogation of the NDA’s handling of the issue. 


  1. And the metamorphosis of Broadsword from a defence to a political blog is complete...

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Amit Shah continues to disappoint. looks like we another delhi and Bihar repeating the next elections

  4. "For now, the army is understandably happy that the BJP government’s pro-activeness allowed it to turn the humiliation of losing 18 soldiers in the Uri attack on September 18 into the cross-LoC success just eleven days later."

    Pakistan is now under extreme pressure as evident from the turmoil which is unfolding there. Interestingly today Pakistani media is reporting about possible sacking of present ISI's chief as well as core commander of PA's 30th core.......All of it could be possible because of Modi government's successful isolation of Pakistan to which even Musharraf agrees. Not to mention that like diplomacy, military power too is a tool in hands of country and its statesman and are used in ensuring the desired needs of the nation. And all available tools has been used this time to put pressure --of this magnitude-- on Pakistan. But this is just the beginning of what can be long term solution.

    Now if someone wants a credit distribution ceremony then it could be like this; diplomacy to diplomats, tactical to the Army and rest to the government for leadership. As like any leader the responsibility of any failure of diplomats and/or Military lies with it, and so does the credit in case of success.

  5. Tell me sir, how is a soldier appearing on posters different from, our dear rahul gandhi claiming credit for his grandmother, for creation of Bangladesh.
    Since it was the Indian army who destroyed the pak army on eastern front,credit should go to them.

    I guess having the power of pen does not relieve you of the ill of hypocrisy.

  6. Next on political posters of any party: let's have from that State, the SHAHEED's Dead body, after he was shoot dead, and the Neat's of the CENTER and STATED SMILLING FACES? That will more catching to voters?PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LEAVE OUR ARMED FORCES OUT OF ANY POLITICS... DHANYAVAD... JAI HIND.

  7. Shukla Ji,

    Using the devils advocacy and his logic to suit your motives - pseudo analysts - as someone rightly said. Politics can not and should not be separated from matters military - that being vital affair of the state. What matters is who uses it and how ..... and how you look at it and with which color of glasses !

    One thing is certain that you are using it to the hilt to make your place in Congress along with many of your ilk...... for that Modi was the target .... modi is the target and for your chagrin Modi shall continue to remain the target, even if it means pleading with Islamabad to destroy political image of Modi in Manishankar style.....

    Can you prove that attack at Uri camp was not directed at lowering image of Modi keeping in view elections in UP and Punjab ?

    Is that history repeating itself ?

    Islamabad and your gang of pseudos have common objective and target - Modi ! Fortunately people have started understanding it but !

  8. nothing wrong in using success of this operation for political gains, even obama did it after raid in pak. the only thing is bjp should not have hurried into bringing posters etc. they could have waited as elections are only in the new year.
    but I agree with one of the previous comments that this is turning more into a political blog with modi and bjp bashing as the core theme.
    there is no harm in acknowledging that you have affinity for the congress :)

  9. Great Article! I am bit amused by this jingoism. We have not eliminated Dawood or Hafeez- We have simply killed 10-12 terrorists at the most in revenge operation. From military sources only, this was not the first such operation- we have crossed LOC in the past too! Now they gave a new name to past operations- Badla operation. This was also a Badla to much bigger attack that killed 19 of our soldiers- u can say bigger Badla to bigger Terrorist attack. Nothing more- Nothing less.

  10. This is nothing new. But then yes, this is becoming a political blog !

  11. Dhakke maar maar kar ek strike karwai hai. If it was not for professionalism of our armed forces, there wouldve been many casualties on our side too.

    If Modi had not given political permission to counter attack this time also, he wouldve been the centre of attention this dussera. Plain and simple.

  12. Good question by a learner. Answer: every story of achievement or failure will be told at it times. You too would have been told many bravery of past by your grandma. But using a current retaliation story as a tool of election campaign is Different than telling a story to your grand child

  13. Sir only issue is the surgical strike was a farce. International media including UN has ridiculed us and our army's claim about strike. At worst, modi govt could have briefed foreign diplomats and may be media and few opposition leaders of operation if it really intended to isolate pakistan. Now, it is us who got isolated and world is silently laughing over us.

  14. to all those who claim that every government does this, i have two words: operation ginger

    thank you and good night

  15. I don't know how to deal with this kind of situation some are putting questions on indian army and some on indian govt.They give some facts and wants us to believe in it.It was a joint operation of indian army and the govt and if they are taking credits,what is wrong in that.

  16. Big difference between using the pictures of military chiefs in posters Vs Emphasizing that the NDA govt is strong on defence in its posters. This guy doesn't get it. Ultimately blame and credit both lie with the political leadership

  17. The blog is apt and accurate, there's no question of the blog being political. Col Shukla has only compared the respective reaction of the Indian Army's leadership to the political glorification of 2 military actions that took place during term of the same political entity at the Centre. Col Shukla is not questioning the credibility of the current govt's claims only how it is being used for electoral gains.

  18. Yes of course, we like and love Modi ji, we strongly believe that Modi ji can make India most powerful country in the world.
    We have to encourage government for increased our defense system and army power in every aspect, otherwise china and Pakistan will always threaten us.

    Specially Air Force,miscile, navy and army other defense, need to increase our capacity and capabilities, need to continuously work by our scientists to increase our defense

    We should not be dependent on other countries like a beggar

  19. vow... shukla is writing blogs like real Western stooges who have no connection or knowledge about indian sentiments... while the people of india believe in God Hanuman, shukla writes it as "MYTHOLOGICAL MONKEY" GOD Hanuman...
    Why can't you say Lord Hanuman... Oh am sorry that is reserved for Jesus and Allah only.. Hindus... indians... Nayyyyy....


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