Surgical Strike is a military attack that is carried out to damage military targets, minimal collateral damage to the surrounding and the general public infrastructure. The aim is to eliminate the target without causing collateral damage to nearby areas and civilians.
In India, the term is associated with Indian Army’s attack on militant launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. India, on 29 September 2016, announced that it has conducted “surgical strikes” across the LoC in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir which inflicted "significant casualties". Media reports in India said the casualty figures in the attack ranged from 35 to 70. On the other side of the border, Pakistan rejected India’s claims. Pakistan claimed Indian Army troops did not cross the LoC and only had skirmishes along the border with the Pakistani troops. Pakistan also claimed that 8 Indian soldiers were killed and one was in their custody. India claimed one of its soldiers was in Pakistan’s custody but it was not linked to the surgical strike. India also denied any soldier getting killed during the operation.
The public announcement of the strike marked a change in India’s policy towards such attacks. The acknowledgment came amid scepticism and disputing accounts of the attack.
What led to the surgical strike?
On September 18, 2016, a fidayeen attack was carried out by four militants on an Indian Army base in Uri, which killed 19 Indian soldiers. India accused Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Muhammad. The Uri attack came after similar attacks in Gurdaspur and Pathankot. Indian Amry said, after the Uri attack, that the Indian side has shown considerable restraint, but it reserved the right to respond "at the time and place of our own choosing".
11 days after the Uri attack, the Indian government announced that it has conducted a surgical strike against suspected militants across the LoC. Lt. General Ranbir Singh, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), said it had received "very credible and specific information" about "terrorist teams" who were preparing to "carry out infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes inside Jammu and Kashmir and in various metros in other states". The Indian attack was carried out to pre-empt their infiltration plans. According to reports, the attack was ground-based and was carried out inside the 1-3 km inside the territory of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Reports also said that the attack was carried out by 3-4 teams of 70-80 soldiers from the 4th and 9th battalions of the Parachute Regiment (Special Forces).
Some experts dispute whether the term surgical strike is appropriate for such types of attacks. It was also noted by many experts that similar attacks have also been carried out earlier. The difference this time was the public acknowledgment by the DGMO and the country’s top political leadership.
The Secretary-General of United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, said that the UN Observer Group in Pakistan Kashmir did not directly observe any "firing across the Line of Control" relating to the incident. The Indian envoy at UN during the time, Syed Akbaruddin, dismissed Secretary General’s statement. Akbaruddin said "facts on the ground do not change whether somebody acknowledges or not."
Pakistan rejected India’s claims. The Pakistan Foreign Office said the claims were ‘baseless’ said it was India’s ‘deliberate’ attempt to escalate conflict.