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The army had carried out "target specific, limited-calibre, counter-terrorist operations" across the LoC in the past too but this is for the first time the government has gone public about it, a Parliamentary panel was told today, in remarks that appear to contradict the Defence Minister's claim.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar gave this information to the Parliamentary Committee on Exernal Affairs when he was specifically asked by MPs whether surgical strikes have been done in the past.
"Professionally done, target-specific, limited calibre counter-terrorist operations" have been carried out across the LoC in the past too, but this is for the first time that the government has made it public," according to sources present in the meeting.
The top diplomat's comments assume significance in the context of claims by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's claims last week rejecting Congress's claims that surgical strikes were undertaken during the UPA government too.
He had asserted that it was the first time that surgical strikes had taken place in the aftermath of the Uri terror attack and what was undertaken previously were operations locally executed by commanders without involving the government.
Jaishankar also told the Committee that while India has been engaging with Pakistan post the September 29 surgical strikes, but no "calendar" has so far been prepared regarding future engagement and its level with Islamabad, members said on condition of anonymity.
He said soon after the operations had ended, the Director General Military Operations of the Pakistan Army was informed about the strikes.
During the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Bipin Rawat also gave details of the strikes targeting terrorist launch pads across the LoC.
Government representatives told the panel that the
strikes have fulfilled the purpose as of now and there will always be a nagging doubt in the Pakistani establishment whether India will carry out similar operations in the future. A Congress member wanted to know whether similar operations could be carried out in the future.
The government representatives said the strikes were carried out after a "lot has been suffered".
When asked about the casualty they could inflict on the terrorists, the officials said the army had crossed the LoC to carry out strikes and not to collect evidence.
On China recently extending the technical hold on India's efforts for a UN ban on chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group and Pathankot attack mastermind Masood Azhar, the Foreign Secretary said New Delhi is working on the issue.
When a member of the Committee raised the issue of India's failure to get JeM chief named in the BRICS Goa declaration when terror outfits like ISIS figured in the document, Jaishankar gave the same answer that the establishment was working on it.
Jaishankar sought to skirt the issue of UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan stating that it did not witness any action at LoC during the surgical strikes.
He said since panel chairman Shashi Tharoor had been associated with the body, he would not like to say anything.
During the meeting, there was a brief exchange of words between a BJP and Left party member when the former raised the issue of security of MPs after the strikes. Some members said the topic of the meeting was national security and not individual security.
Special Secretary Internal Security M K Singhla informed the panel about the types of security being extended to the VIPs.
Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar and DG BSF K K Sharma were also present at the meeting besides the Foreign Secretary and the Vice Chief of Army Staff.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who is a member of the Committee, attended the meet but did not ask questions, a member said.