Fact Check : How far Congress’ claim about conducting surgical strikes is true?

Posted on 2019-05-07 04:59:02 by Samyuktha Mirra


According to RTI response by DGMO, Army does not have records of any “surgical strike” conducted before September 29, 2016. The dates mentioned by Congress is of retaliation or cross border raids' dates.

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Congress on Twitter recently tweeted out the list of surgical strikes that were apparently conducted by them much before the Modi government even came to power. The caption of the tweet reads: "Far before Modi ever came to power, brave men sacrificed their lives to protect & avenge our great nation. His ridiculous comments are not only an insult to them but has hurt the sentiments of every Indian."

Here is the infographic attached with the tweet.

Firstly, the entire issue revolving around whether Congress did conduct surgical strikes during its rule starts because former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claimed so. In a recent interview with Hindustan Times, Manmohan Singh reportedly said "Multiple surgical strikes took place during our [UPA] tenure, too. For us, military operations were meant for strategic deterrence and giving a befitting reply to anti-India forces than to be used for vote garnering exercises,". This statement of his was countered by Modi when he addressed a rally in Sikar, Rajasthan. According to an NDTV report of the event, Modi said that the Congress had initially questioned the surgical strike, however, now it is saying “me too me too”. He also said that “it is no video game”. 

The video of PM Narendra Modi addressing the rally in Rajasthan can be seen here.

The official account of INC Sandesh had also tweeted out a Press Release by Randeep Surjewala which addresses Modi’s ‘anti-army attitude’.

Looking deeper into the actual surgical strike claims of Congress, they have listed 6 surgical strikes from 2008-2014. They have also mentioned the day and the place. However, the confusion arises because of an RTI reply by DGMO. The reply tells us that no data pertains to surgical strikes before 2016.

Activist Rohit Chaudhary tweeted the RTI reply with a message: "Revelation made through my RTI petition last year. No records of any previous "surgical strike": DGMO". Here is the picture of RTI reply tweeted by him.

This was tweeted out by several users and many news agencies have written about this issue with reference to the RTI reply. Fact Hunt had already published an article busting Rahul Gandhi’s false claims about UPA government conducting surgical strikes. The response to a filed RTI application of the same got a response from the Directorate General of Military Operations of the Army (DGMO) who said that the Army does not have records of any “surgical strike” conducted before September 29, 2016.

However, what do those attacks mentioned by Congress signify? Simple research gives us the information that they are not ‘surgical strikes’ but cross-border operations, retaliation etc. An exact definition of the surgical strike has been provided by the DGMO “As per the information available in ‘open source’ the definition of ‘surgical strike’ is ‘…an operation which is planned based on specific intelligence, on a legitimate military target for maximum effect and with minimum or no collateral damage. It involves deliberate insertion to the target area, precise execution and swift extrication of the body of troops back to the base’.”  The activities mentioned by Congress do not qualify as a surgical strike. 

Strike 1: 19th June 2008, Bhattal Sector Poonch: In June 2008, a soldier of the 2/8 Gorkha Rifles lost his way and was captured by a Pakistani Border Action Team (BAT) in Kel sector. His body was found beheaded after a few days. As per India Today, the Indian Army retaliated a week later by raiding Pakistani posts. In the counter-attack, at least eight Pakistani soldiers were killed. The Indian soldiers brought back the heads of four Pakistani soldiers. 

This was clearly a cross border raid, not a surgical strike.

Strike 2: 30 Aug - 1st Sep 2011 Sharda Sector: (OPERATION GINGER) : According to a report by The Hindu, the Indian Army had carried out surgical strikes across the LoC in 2011, in retaliation to the surprise attack on an army post in Gugaldhar ridge in Kupwara in July 2011 that left six soldiers dead. The Pakistani raiders had carried back the heads of two soldiers. According to the reports accessed by The Hindu, the Indian Army in response planned one of its deadliest cross-border strikes: Operation Ginger. After carrying out a detailed reconnaissance, Indian Army commandos struck three Pakistani Army posts on August 30, leaving behind a trail of death, destruction and booby traps. At least 13 Pakistani soldiers were killed. Three of these soldiers were decapitated and the heads were brought back to India.

The Hindu has called it a surgical strike in the first paragraph and cross-border raid in the second. But one notable thing in the report is that the top leadership of Army and the government was not involved in the cross border raid. In the last paragraph, it has been mentioned that the severed heads were photographed and buried on the instructions of senior officers but were again dug up, burnt and the ashes were thrown into the Kishenganga to eliminate DNA traces. The incident clearly proves that the raid was not coordinated with senior officials and it was a local level operation. 

Director General of Military Operations from 2012 to 2014, Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia said the surgical strikes now and the operations then "can't be compared". "Earlier strikes, they were not even strikes, they were cross-border operations done at the local level". You can watch his statement here:

Operation GINGER can't be called a surgical strike because it was a local level cross border raid and the government was not involved in it.

Strike 3: 6th Jan 2013, Sawan Patra check post: In January 2013, after a Pakistani BAT beheaded Lance Naik Hemraj, Indian troops completely destroyed a Pakistani post across the LoC from Poonch. If sources are to be believed, more than half a dozen Pakistani troops and terrorists were killed in the revenge attack named Operation Badla.

Strike 4: 27-28 July 2013, Nazapir Sector: On July 27 Pakistan violated ceasefire with heavy firing. On July 28, Indian retaliation firing killed 1 Pakistani soldier. This can't be called a surgical strike.

Strike 5: 6th Aug 2013, Neelam Valley: On this day,  India had retaliated by an exchange of fire in which 2 Paki soldiers got wounded. The retaliation had come just hours after India accused Pakistani forces of killing five Indian soldiers along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir as reported by Reuters. As per definition, this can't be considered as a surgical strike. This was just a retaliation.

Strike 6: 14th January 2014: There is no news of any operation across the border on this date. Instead, India and Pakistan's soldiers had exchanged sweets and India-Pakistan held trade talks.

Chief of Army Staff denied conduction any surgical strike before 2016

General Vijay Kumar Singh who was the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) from 2010 - 2012 tweeted out to deny conducting any surgical strikes during his tenure. His tweet reads: "Congress has a habit of lying. Will you please let me know which ‘So called Surgical Strike’ are you attributing to my tenure as COAS. Am sure you must have hired some Coupta to invent another story."

However, it is worth mentioning that V.K Singh is the Minister of State for External Affairs in the Modi government.

Bikram Singh who was the COAS from 2012 - 2014 also denied conducting any surgical strikes during his tenure. Here is a clip of his interview with India Today.

Video Credit: @Pokershash, India Today

So, the two Chief of Army Staff between 2010 and 2014 have denied conducting any surgical strikes.

While searching for factual and legitimate information, we found many websites spreading false news with misleading headlines. We will now point out a few of the many articles that carry fairly misleading information about the surgical strikes. Firstly, considering this India Today article, the headline reads ‘4 times Indian commandos crossed the LoC for surgical strikes: All you need to know’. However, apart from the 2016 attacks which are the only ones considered to be surgical strikes, the other three mentioned in this article are not surgical strikes. This is confirmed because of the RTI information received that no surgical strikes have been conducted before 2016. The Hindu has written an article claiming Operation Ginger of 2011 to be a surgical strike and this has been misconceptualized by many others. This cannot be considered a surgical strike because the RTI response by DGMO does not adhere to it.

In conclusion, from official data, we come to know that the first surgical strike was conducted in 2016 and any information that claims that surgical strikes had happened before 2016 can be assumed to be false until official data like the RTI data claims so.

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