Pakistan goes international to deny cross border strikes - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 2 October 2016

Pakistan goes international to deny cross border strikes

Pakistani army briefs foreign journalists on the LoC after India's claimed cross-border strike on Tuesday

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 2nd Oct 2016

Pakistan has mounted an international effort to disprove the Indian Army’s claim of having successfully raided “terrorist launch pads” across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) on Tuesday.

A CNN television report on Sunday stated that Pakistan’s military had “brought in a busload of foreign journalists” to one of five posts that Indian government sources claimed that Special Forces had struck. The reporter stated there were no signs of any Indian raid, but said the Pakistan Army admitted that a soldier had been killed in cross firing --- apparently meaning cross-border firing.

Earlier, on Saturday, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, had stated “The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) has not directly observed any firing across the LoC related to the latest incidents.”

There is little validity in such reports, since a cross-border strike would leave few telltale signs in the area it targets, and those could be easily cleaned up in a few hours. However, there is irony in the fact that, while both sides usually blame each other for aggression on the LoC, this is the first time ever that Pakistan is mounting such an effort to absolve India of any responsibility.

With India having not yet released video footage of the army’s Tuesday strikes, conclusive proof remains lacking. Further, it remains unclear how seriously the Indian troops managed to hurt jihadi groups and their Pakistan Army patrons; or whether the strikes amounted to a calibrated exercise to placate inflamed Indian public opinion, without provoking retaliation from Pakistan’s military.

Either way, India’s close-mouthed approach is allowing Rawalpindi (Pakistan Army Headquarters) to save face by denying the strikes altogether, saving itself from having to explain India’s ingress into its territory. Meanwhile, the Indian Army has obtained a face-saving closure to the Uri debacle; and, an Indian public that yearns to punish Pakistan for backing anti-India terrorists has been given a victory to celebrate.

Even so, important questions hang in the air: Will these strikes deter Pakistan’s military and its jihadi proxies from another Uri-style attack, or an even bigger one to demonstrate that they remain effective?

India’s apparent restraint is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it does not push the Pakistan Army into a corner from where it is forced to retaliate. On the other hand, little military cost has been imposed on the anti-Indian elements.

In retaliating, India’s conundrum is: How to inflict enough punishment to persuade Pakistan’s security establishment to scale back support for terrorists and militants in India, without tripping any Red Lines that will leave Rawalpindi with no choice but to escalate the confrontation. An occasional raid will fetch the Indian government political brownie points, but hardly dents the Pakistan Army. On the other hand, hurting them seriously through stepped up operations could trigger nuclear Red Lines.

George Perkovich and Toby Dalton point out in their recently-released book, “Not War, Not Peace”, which examines India’s options for retaliating against Pakistan, that: “Hitting back… often serves domestic political interests better than it changes the behavior of the adversary. To achieve the latter objective, India needs a theory to how possible action will or will not motivate Pakistani leaders to act decisively to demobilize anti-Indian terrorist groups and to eschew escalation of conflict in response to possible Indian military retaliation.”

The Indian cross-LoC raid undoubtedly challenges the longstanding assumption of Indian restraint in Rawalpindi, but will not be accepted easily. Hawks will portray it as a one-time gamble by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and argue that Indian pro-activeness must be tested further before being accepted. Meanwhile, jihadi ideologues, which have long aimed to provoke armed military conflict between India and Pakistan, will welcome the dilution of Indian restraint, placing in their hands the triggers for inter-state tension and conflict.

Assuming for a moment that the Indian raid coerces Rawalpindi into restraining jihadis from striking a newly belligerent India, the generals could hardly scale-back the jihadi eco-system without creating ripples across their security establishments --- the jihadi groups, the Pakistani public and, most worryingly for the generals, the Pakistani military’s rank and file.

Any climb-down would invite sharp questions from the army’s junior-and-middle-ranking officers. With 490 soldiers killed in the last two years of Operation Zarb-e-Azb against the Pakistani Taliban, there is little appetite for disarming or restraining Punjab-based, India-directed terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) or the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

Forcing such a mind shift change within Pakistan would take more than a mere signal from India, especially one delivered through contested “surgical strikes”.

Convincing Rawalpindi would require India’s military to retaliate forcefully to each provocation from across the LoC. Not doing so would erode the credibility of the Tuesday strikes.

Further, this would require the Indian Army to gear up across the board, not just rely on a handful of Special Forces units, or regular infantry battalion commando platoons, to avenge operational setbacks caused by the shortcomings of regular army and armed police units.

India’s infantry battalions are formidable fighting outfits, comparable with the world’s best. Yet, they have become used to a certain operational tempo in a quarter century of counter-militancy operations in J&K. A new strategy of cross border tit-for-tat in the Valley would require a higher level of vigilance, training and equipping.

True, the military pressure on Pakistan is coordinated with a range of other measures applied by New Delhi --- the diplomatic isolation of Pakistan, beginning with the cancellation of the SAARC summit; economic pressure, including squeezing Pakistan to grant India “Most Favoured Nation” status; and even “reviewing” the Indus Waters Treaty to extract as much water as legally permissible by India. Yet, Indian military strikes have the unique ability to consolidate support for the Pakistan military against “Indian aggressiveness”.


  1. here I see a weakness. Pak army is putting on this show because we have dented their credibility.So we have found a pressure point.A way to humiliate raheel sharif or which ever general.Pak army image can be dented through this.We need to remember that pak army holds more credibility in pakistan than their politicians. Trying to dent or destroy the credibility of pak army or any chief of pak army through these actions can be useful part of a larger strategy. Perhaps we can dent the army's image to the point that their politicians can use this to take control?

  2. Once again I am disappointed at this article. Do you regret being in the Indian Army or now believe you shouldn't have been an army man and are trying to forget your past?"On the other hand, hurting them seriously through stepped up operations could trigger nuclear Red Lines". In saying this do you really believe Pakistan will use its China controlled nuclear weaponry in front of the whole world, on its own people because the IA will march into their own territory first? Do you believe that PA will suicide by using such weapons knowing full well it would mean their extermination, multinational action to retaliate to prevent international N fall out? The territories they will use N weaponry will remain uninhabitable for years much less any jihadis!

  3. A well written article. Outside of J&K we treat pakistan as a normal state. The behaviour of every entity in India should reflect "Pakistan is an enemy state.".
    Pakistan has also misbehaved with its other two neighbours :Afghanistan & Iran. How long they think they can hide under China's skirts or allowed to by Chna is also a question.
    The sad part is they have chosen this party rather than of education and development. They could have achieved so much in tourism, trade & industry.

  4. Why these strikes have come under suspicion in the first place? Most of the military minds fail to get convinced. Tell tail marks can be obliterated but not the mourning of killings, whose figures by some corners have been claimed upto 150.

  5. @Raj Bhown

    The figures you mention are pure fantasy to everyone except the most self-delusional folks

  6. Nikhil Ns

    Thank you for that very reasoned comment. I agree entirely. But, to dent the Pakistan Army's image in Pakistan, India would need to release credible footage of the strike.

    That is why I am demanding that proof. Without that, it is only an unverified claim.

  7. Nice and well analysed article. Apart from showing evidences for aggressive strikes, India needs work on "Iron curtain" policy along LOC. Because 100% success in foiling any attack on Indian side will seriously frustrate Pak policy makers. India will need to invest heavily on smart infrastructure along LOC.

  8. Thank you sir. And you are right, it makes sense to show it. But does it not also make sense that sometimes, we claim this even without doing it.Zero cost and still loss of their credibility. As we continue to make use of this as a pressure point in a larger strategy.

  9. sir , what if there was proof that the ops took place in pok and cannot be easily denied as ispr has been doing...what would be the implications of that?

  10. NSR says ---

    When OBL was killed no one believed USA...

    We have had to release some photographic evidence without revealing any intelligence or other classified details...

    I have written in several articles that India must do so...
    They can release the passport size photos of dead terrorists and soldiers and it will tie Pakistan Army to terrorists...

    On the other hand, it will not end this menace any time silence may yield some future surpises to Pak army and help India...

    Whatever is the case - Be battle ready with full armor and use cover and do not fall for snipers...
    Be on guard 24/7....

    May God bless all the brave soldiers...service to the country is the highest form of sacrifice and brings you Punyam...

  11. I am trying to figure out even ONE logical explanation for India not releasing proof of the strikes, whereas there are any number of reasons why it should be made public:reinforcing our narrative that it was terrorists we struck not the Pak army,denting the image of the P army, raising the morale of our forces, setting at rest all lingering doubts. If the reason for not going public is to avoid " provoking" Pakistan, then this is naivette at its worst: the provocation will be the strike, not the evidence of it.

  12. Pakistan Army's much-vaunted "Operation Z-e-Azb' is a standing hoax -seen through by every bozo around the world - except, of course this stuffed shirt, Ajai Shukla,, who blithely cites a figure of 490 pakistani soldiers killed in it. How does he says so? He got to count their heads? Nope, he swallows the Pindi GHQ spiel. But is ambivalent if not openly doubtful about what his own country's Army says. Broadsword my left foot, broomstick would be a better handle for the swine.

  13. Perhaps its the keeping the "evidence" in abeyance by India the reason for todays news. In the news today, Pak NSA Sartaj Aziz said that the NSAs of the two countries have spoken and agreed to reduce tensions on the LoC. While it would be good to see the evidence, the other factors and actions being seen executed inside Pak does seem to indicate that something did change the status quo even if it was just an bravado announcements by India. 1. Power blackouts across cities, 2. NOTAM on flight level restrictions 3. Media statements & briefings . If Pak did make moves without actuals ground ops by India, I think this is even more interesting from a strategic point of view ! After all today Info wars are just as devastating and influential as physical combat....

    BTW would be great to see less of this bhakt - anti bhakt thing on your twitter timeline. You are way more interesting with your analysis regardless of anyone who agrees with your view point or otherwise .

    Danny Boy

  14. You are a traitor and will de forever like that
    I hope you die soon

  15. I tend to agree with Muttupalli on his analysis of the article. Col Shukla has framed the article in a manner which puts doubts in the reader's mind on the truthfulness of DGMO's statement.

  16. Sir couple of questions i would like to ask
    1) why south block believes that it can motivate Pakistan to stop terrorism through surgical strikes? I mean U.S have been doing airstrikes in FATA for years, but still it has not convinced Pakistan to take action against haquanis?

    2) above question leads to more fundamental question, is Pakistan itself in complete control of these groups? I mean do they have enough control to disband them?

    3) why indian govt. announced publicly about the surgical strikes, as they claim their intention is to send a message to Pak army and thry don't want further escalation, so if they conducted the op, then they could have just kept it secret? Is it kind of a political stunt?

  17. You are brain dead
    Do you realize this not about Modi or BJP
    This is about Indian Army and India
    I seriously doubt you were an Indian ex serviceman

  18. you are the most self disillusioned person.
    ask a honest friend of your to read your blogs, but that's only if you have listening and introspection capability , which I doubt you have.

  19. How would there be footage of the raids across LOC unless the raiders had taken along media/TV crews with them on foot/crawling across the line thru the minefd,which appears impossible/stupid to think of.
    In any case a fake footage,if required, can be easily made by intel agencies.

  20. That proof can come in it's own sweet time, when Pakistan has spent enough to bolster itslef. Wish there is a plan and we wish to see the edited Video's surely, just a tit for tat video is not, how we want to play this. But see if we can make it soon as a pure good measure, but also as a Jingo! any case Bravo Indian Army for we know for a fact this is only a Public announcement of a operation this time ;)

  21. Colonel, no amount of evidence will make Pakistan accept that there was a successful strike from India. If India shows a drone footage, they will say that Indian army had enacted a drama somewhere in its own territory and made a video of it. Truckloads of proof have been given to Pak in multiple cases of terrorist strikes in India, has it ever accepted any of it? No. So why will it accept any proof now? Indian govt does not have to prove anything, and I trust our army completely.

  22. Congress trusts dgmo's statement but you won't
    No wonder people call you a traitor

    Also your first post after strikes by India is not about Indian army's strike but the position of the rouge enemy terrorist state, in which you are primarily highlighting it's possible.

    You see in hating Modi you are doing more damage to the national interests, but you seem to be in mood to introspect
    You deserve to be called a traitor

    I'm not expecting my comments to be posted since I know this doesn't suit you

    You are a coward not a soldier

  23. I disagree with all of you demanding proof.

    There is merit in allowing someone plausible deniability. or giving someone a way out. Even if he's your adversary who needs punishment..... but if you give them a face saving way out...... that way, they can control the rabid TRP chasing media and loud mouths who bat for blood and spew hatred. In other words, this strategy de-escalates chances of war and big retaliation.

    Today, our respective DGMOs / NSAs are speaking. That is a good sign. I can imagine the first phone call from Indian DGMO to Pak counterpart -

    "Heeey, we flattened a few terrorist camps in your side, weve got pics nd satelite imagery, but you dont even agree they exist right? So nothing happened right?? Ok....were not going to publicize it. Go ahead and clean up the mess. Were cool here. We brothers. Yeeah!"

    The message is sent home. The only retailiation that happens.... are more terrorist strikes, but these were going on sporadically in any case. Lets hope they will be softer, fewer and farther apart.

  24. I disagree completely with Broadsword that we need to give proof. Ive just posted my reasons. Am surprised that Broadsword wants proof.

  25. Mr Shukla, it shocks me that you would not trust your Army but doubt it based on the paki narrative.
    Tell me what good the footages will do if they are released??
    Would you be able to identify the terrorists and get the location of assault from the footage?!!
    Pakis will deny the footage saying its bollywood movie and they will get to know the Para commando tactics and MO.

    Watching the footage might make you believe your Army but I trust the IA and DGMO.
    Your political agenda shows

  26. Let's summarize the points colonel is trying to make.

    1) With India having not yet released video footage of the army’s Tuesday strikes, conclusive proof remains lacking.

    Meaning : UPA never hesitated to share such classified information with the folks in the inner circle [like myself!]. Modi is pure evil.

    2) Meanwhile, the Indian Army has obtained a face-saving closure to the Uri debacle

    Meaning : I am basically dishonoring the very institution that I once served.

    Question: HOW THE F*** is this IA debacle Colonel? Are the armed forces suppose to sit tight, keeping an eye for some bastards cross over LOC (and attack like cowards) day after day, month after month and year after year? Is that what they are designed/organized for? WHY are you trying to attribute intelligence failure to IA?

    3) Forcing such a mind shift change within Pakistan would take more than a mere signal from India, especially one delivered through contested “surgical strikes”.

    Meaning: I basically have no ideas/suggestions what can be done by us[India] to put brakes on PA or Jihadi eco-system but for the sake of it, I am going to criticize anything that our current government attempts.

    भाजपा/मोदी कुछ कोशिश तो कर रहे है ना? विफल हुए तो भी कोई गम नहीं | कम से कम तुम्हारी सोनिया-मनमोहन सरकार की तरह (नामर्दों की तरह) ओबामा के पास भीख मांगने तो नहीं गए |

    Not doing so would erode the credibility of the Tuesday strikes.

    Ha!Glad there is something I can agree with.

  27. Do you really think that this strike could be faked? Will army men and politicians put their jobs/careers and conscience (should this ever be leaked) on the line?? Are they all "collective cowards" or "super sly thinking they can deceive a country in these times"???

    One can be naive and have a questioning mind. Thats not a crime. But it's also good to be open and supportive and have belief and faith.

  28. Was there a surgical strike or an illusio and fabrication according to doubts stemming in international media.The Government will have to show evidence of the strike to allay such doubts.

  29. What I find interesting is that even during the highest alert on the LoC, IA troops made numerous insertions into Azad Kashmir and made it back without without being discovered. What this show is how easy it is to cross the LoC without being discovered by either side. Especially when the freedom fighters are either local or they have locals with them who know lay of the land far better than an Indian SF who have just flown in. These guys don't need PA's help in crossing the border.

    In any case at the moment Pakistan's focus is not on the eastern border. Its on the west. Pakistan has no reason to needle india at the moment. Why take the attention away from the HR violations by the Indian occupation? There is nothing to gain. Key question, who gain's from this debacle?

    However if Modi et al think we will be scared by their threats, they have another thing coming.

  30. Totally agree with Deshdaaz

    Coward shukla doesnt have access to bytes anymore...grapes are sour aren't they colonel...hence the rhetoric ....doesnt miss a chance to criticize bjp and namo. (read the blogs post may 2014.)

    basically that's what i have been moaning to this self disillusioned colonel, he doesn't realize that by criticizing current govt policy in every way sometimes he is dis honoring the nation and stooping down more he is dis honoring IA.
    This isnt about modi or bjp or congress or you f888ing colonel. this is about Indian army and India.

    whilst I agree that IA and Current govt should put forward credible proof before the nation, the way things are being said in public domain are totally outrageous.

    IA fraternity will be ashamed of you, so is this nation colonel. one day your family will also be....

  31. Futile attempt by a run away coward person to tarnish the very image of our brave armed forces. Whose interest after all you are serving. A reporter turned expert overnight should keep his dishonest counsel to himself.

  32. The article espousing the Pakistan false propaganda is the most cowardly and treacherous act by an ex-military man. Whose interest after all you are serving. Indian armed forces known for their honesty integrity and valour should immediately strip this person's whatever residual connection and debar him from using any military rank. Do not understand why such a reputed paper like Business Standard employs such a mediocre individual who overnight becomes an expert from a reporter.

  33. Just watching your fav channel ndtv buck stops here
    Retd Cheif shaker Roy chaudhary , Ambassador G Parthasarathy and Maj Gaurav Bhatia. All don't agree to the release of your so called proofs since that will compromise operational details.
    Now that's what I call military tactical wisdom
    Further they go on to say that if it were fake EU USA and rest of many nations wouldn't commend India on what has been done
    So I very much agree that no need to reveal any proof and fall in the trap of anti nationals

    And to you the biggest bigoted traitor of IA, you are brain dead and as good as a rotting corpse , so go help your self and do the nation a favour if you can by hanging your self.

    I hope you die soon

  34. Some people don't trust dgmo but pak version and call themselves to serve IA , seriously....?
    Worse than communists.

    No wonder they have been kicked out of army

  35. you are a disgrace please don't call yourself an ex serviceman

  36. Do you think dgmo was under political pressure

  37. After your well reasoned blog, the front page of Indian Express of 5th October, 2016 carries a rather faciful account by our Army's juke box- Parveen Swamy.

    He claims that these surgical strikes were in POK's areas of Dudhnial, Athmuqam, Leepa and Tangdhar, the last named is entirely in India.

    While Athmuqam (less than 2 kms from the LOC) and a strike from Tangdhar in India must have happened, the ones in Dudhnial and Leepa need a willing suspension of disbelief to be accepted.

    Dudhnial is more than 5 kms trek from the LOC. The valley route is open and easy, but must have been under constant observation of pak Army too. The nearest Indian village from this LOC is many kilometers away. And the terrain is forested and mountainous. Thus, it will not be easy for villagers from India to meet their relatives in Dudhnial for an eyewitness account. The nearest building, across the Pak Army controlled Al Haawi bridge over the Kishenganga, that Swamy claims was destroyed is more than 100 mtrs straight up. Another building along the army road to the west is about 500 mtrs away. Both could have been targets if the bridge was not guarded and the Indians had plenty of time- i.e. more than 8 hours.

    About Leepa Valley too Swamy errs. Leepa Valley is more than 20 kms trek from the LOC, and that too after a 2700 mtr ridge has been climbed and descended. What could have happened is that terrorist houses in a small village called Ghaipura just across the LOC was attacked and Swamy exaggerated it into a super human attack many kms away. Just across the LOC in India is a village, which could have been an easy base to attack from. The distance between the Indian and POK villages is less than a km.

    By exaggerating Swamy has made his story unbelievable.

    All this information I collected from Google Earth. This brings me to an another point. all the villages across the LOC in POK have been well photographed and are on Google Earth. However, on the Indian side there are no photographs, which is because of restricted access to civilians. This is a decidedly a propaganda disadvantage for us.

  38. The packees will dismiss ANY evidence that we provide them. They did not acknowledge Kasbab's own father in packess.

    The Packeees are trying to bait India to release op-sec info.

    Majority of the world and 99.99% Indians do not need ant further proof that the info that is already out there.

  39. The vitriol and personal attacks being spewed in this comments section are both unacceptable and deplorable. I wonder how many of these "keyboard warriors" have actually served the nation on the frontlines of battle? Keep up your fine work Colonel and don't let the naysayers discourage you.

  40. The DGMO's statement does not give any specifics. It says there were surgical strikes and certain enemy positions were attacked and destroyed with casualties. There were not casualties on our side. It does not state that commandos were used or it was an artillery strike. I do not know why the word surgical was used. The defense ministry then clarified that helicopters were not used. In this background you hear the press conjuring up materials which are not there in the DGMO's statement and suggesting that a commando teams were used and six staging posts were completely destroyed and giving a estimated death toll.

    If a commando operation was done it has to take into the following points. You have six hours from 10Pm to 4 Pm to return. If the distance is 2Km then it would take at least 30 minutes one way that is you have a hour less. Then you have night vison goggles which do not give a very clear vision for close quarters and the walking would be slow.

    Then there is the danger of mine fields and Pakistan Ranger patrols which could change on any day in any area, and you have circumvented this or put the ranger out of action.

    You reach the spot and attack from a distance may be 500 Km to 1 Km with carl gustav guns or the DRDO equivalent. Good. The sound from these guns go off and the whole surrounding area becomes live and Pak forces come to know there is an attack. Then comes the hard part of getting back 2 Km which is bound to happen in such kind of excursions. They could use helicopter gun ships, which our forces across the border would have to shoot down. It is assumed that they did not send helicopters for fear of them being hit. Even then they could have used motorized infantry to reach the site and counter the retreat. Nothing like this happened or we guess the Pakistani forces were slow to react. If our side was willing to bring down Pakistani helicopters then there would be no reason to stop short of an air attack on the main base camps.

    Given this I say what was the need to do such a thing when you have 155mm artillery which can take out targets which are at a distance of more than 25 Kms with a degree of precision if proper shells were used considering we had the co-ordinates Was this the surgical strike we are talking of undertaken. If this option is available what is the need for a commando strike, is it because the press wants to make it look like something you read in the novels. But why & for whose benefit.

    This artillery capability is available with us and we can take out positions upto 40 Kms then why do you hear of our positions being attacked by mortar. These artillery guns were used in our Kargil counter attack without radar range finders, which I presume we have know and our artillery has the capability of shoot and scoot which the Pakistani artillery does not have and thus we should not tolerate any fire across our borders. Yet heavy artillery is not used. Then there is the sniper rifles which can fire upto 2 Km with night vision then where is the problem for manned positions within this range on the other side.

  41. I think you are actually a politician wearing defence correondent's hat. Pakistan will never accept any evidence if you see the past behaviour. If you are ex-Army you will believe your DGMO unless you were discharged dishonourably and are venting out your frustration.

  42. This guy is part of the Karachi project.


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