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‘Surgical Strikes’ – How Effective?

Subodh Varma |
Both, killings and ceasefire violations in J&K have increased since the much hyped ‘surgical strikes’ of two years ago.
Surgical Strike

Image for representational purpose only. Image Courtesy: Indian Express

As part of its ongoing unofficial election campaign for the coming Assembly and General Elections, BJP has been boasting about its so called ‘surgical strikes’ against alleged Pakistani terrorist camps, carried out two years ago on 20 September 2016. It is being claimed that these attacks were in response to cross-border terrorist bases, and that the strikes represented the muscular and bold policy of the ‘nationalist’ Modi govt. Countrywide celebrations were organised, using the full weight of the govt., including a directive to universities to mark the event. Blanket coverage was provided by a pliant mainstream media.

Setting aside the question of whether such celebrations are justified, a crucial aspect that has largely been ignored in this synthetic upsurge of patriotism is this: how effective were these ‘surgical strikes’? Did they send a message of deterrence to those across the border? Did the unending cycle of death in J&K come down? Did they rein in ceasefire violations from across the border?

Information collected by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) from media reports shows that in fact the number of fatalities in J&K have gone up since 2016, as have ceasefire violations.


In fact, it appears that violence in J&K has been on an upswing, especially from 2016. Compared to total fatalities (civilians+security personnel+terrorists) of 174 in 2015, and 267 in 2016, the number of dead shot up to 358 in 2017 and stood at 298 on 23 September in 2018.

A similar trend is observed for ceasefire violations on both the International Border and the Line of Control. From a total of 2244 violations reported in 2015, there was a slight dip in 2016 followed by a jump to 2258 in 2017 and 2298 till 10 June 2018. It seems that 2018 will end up with the highest ever record of ceasefire violations.


Even the official data put out by the home ministry (Annual Report 2017-18) shows that terrorism related incidents shot up from 222 in 2014 to 342 in December 2017 while infiltration attempts went up from 222 to 406 in the same period.

The ‘surgical strikes’, it seems, have had absolutely no effect. Events are being determined by other factors with nobody caring for these strikes.

The record shows something else: violence in J&K has increased after Modi came to power at the Centre, and especially after the opportunist alliance between BJP and PDP took over the State govt. for the second time in J&K in 2016. State Assembly elections were held in December 2014 and a hung house resulted. Governor’s rule was imposed. Mufti Mohammed Sayeed became the chief minister after bitter rivals PDP and BJP joined hands in March 2015. But after the Mufti’s death in January 2016, and another spell of Governor’s rule, Mehbooba Mufti became chief minister in April 2016, heading the same alliance. BJP’s meddling in the state accompanied by myopic policies of the Modi govt. at the Centre resulted in continued and aggravated alienation of people in the state. This became the fertile ground for more violence, from all parties involved.

Seen from this perspective, the zealous celebrations of the second anniversary of ‘surgical strikes’ looks even more absurd. It seems more like that BJP is trying to cover up its deadly acts of commission and omission in J&K with the fig leaf of ‘surgical strikes’.

Clearly, the hope among BJP’s strategists is to wring out the only possible political/electoral benefit from its J&K fiasco by pretending to be full of patriotism and valour in defending the country. But even this is very thin ice as the figures given above show. This will surely not work in J&K because the people there know and experience the truth every day. In the rest of the country, manufactured patriotic claims of this kind have never worked because the people can’t be fooled all the time.

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