India’s ‘three’ surgical strikes send a strong message

India has conducted three, and not two, cross-border operations against terrorists in the past five years, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, above, said at an election rally in the southern Indian state of Karnataka on Saturday.

He mentioned two of the operations but did not speak on the third mission. The participants at the rally loudly cheered him without bothering about the third strike since every cross-border surgical strike by the military is a matter of pride for them.

But Opposition parties immediately began questioning the home minister’s statement. They wanted to know when, where and how and against whom the strikes were carried out to start a fresh controversy ahead of elections. They called Singh’s statement an election gimmick.  

When Singh spoke about the three strikes, maybe he had in mind the cross-border raid conducted by the Indian Army in Myanmar on 10 June 2015. The details of the operation were kept classified.

Some 70 commandos then entered Myanmar and killed 38 Naga insurgents of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) NSCN (K) group. The 40-minute surgical strike took place six days after the group members killed 18 soldiers of the 6 Dogra Regiment in Chandel district in the north-eastern state of Manipur.

Two more cross-border surgical strikes were carried out later to avenge similar killing of soldiers, this time by Pakistan-backed terrorists in September 2016 and February 2019.

The home minister probably avoided mentioning the 2015 army operation in Myanmar — if that is what he was hinting at by the ‘third strike’ — because it was unrelated to the strikes against the terror launch pads (2016) across the line of control in Pakistan and terrorist training camps in Balakot deep inside that country (2019).

Singh’s mention of the cross-border strikes was to tell the nation that India is not weak anymore and it will hit back at the enemy if provoked.

It is also a strong message to Pakistan which has a weak prime minister dancing to the tunes of the military.