Cross-border operations/ 'surgical strikes' by India's armed forces
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
The Army's Directorate General of Military Operations [says], “ 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 target area, precise execution and swift extrication of the body of troops back to the base'.“
Covert missions: 1971- Aug 2016
These are some past secret operations conducted by the Indian Army in the neighbourhood.
1971/ East Pakistan
Army closely collaborated with Mukti Bahini inside then East Pakistan in the build-up to the 1971 Bangladesh war. The operation has not been officially acknowledged.
19?? / Kashmir
Indian Special Forces and Ghatak platoons of infantry are known to conduct tactical ops across the LoC in Kashmir to cause small-scale damage and send a strong point across.
1995 Myanmar (Apr-May)
India and Myanmar (then Burma) conducted a joint military operation blocking around 200 NSCN, ULFA and KLO militants moving through the Myanmar-Mizoram border towards Manipur after picking up an arms consignment from Bangladesh.
1999, Kargil: 'Vajpayee didn't allow IAF to cross LoC'
Vajpayee refused permission to IAF to cross LoC during Kargil conflict: Tipnis
NEW DELHI: During the Kargil conflict, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was reluctant to use the Air Force and refused to give it permission to cross the Line of Control, former Air chief Anil Tipnis said on Friday.
Speaking at the launch of a book titled 'A Prime Minister to remember: Memories of a military chief', penned by former Navy chief Sushil Kumar, Tipnis recalled a meeting he and the then Army chief Ved Malik had with Vajpayee during the 1999 Kargil fighting. Tipnis said Vajpayee wanted to know from General Malik if the ground forces could do without the use of Air Force.
"Even before Ved Malik could respond, I chipped in saying the Army needs it and we are ready. The Prime Minister was pensive for a few moments and then said 'kal subah shuruwat kariyega (begin tomorrow morning)," Tipnis said.
He also spoke about asking for Vajpayee's permission to cross the LoC.
"In a voice firmer than I had ever heard ... (Vajpayee said) 'No, we will not cross the Line of Control'," Tipnis said.
He said the Air Force was ready to join the Army in the operation at a short notice of six hours.
Admiral (Retd.) Sushil Kumar, who was Navy chief at the time of Kargil conflict, said Vajpayee turned a "strategic loss" to a massive victory.
Lt General (Retd.) Chandra Shekhar, who served as vice chief of Army, also lauded Vajpayee's role during the Kargil conflict.
"The Kargil war demonstrated the Indian resolve and the close synergy among the three services," he added.
2002/ Operation Parakram
Indian troops were engaged in limited action across the border a few times, for instance in 2002 during Operation Parakram
Operation All Clear, conducted inside Bhutan in December 2003 to eliminate Northeastern militant groups. Operation acknowledged by the government. About 30 militant camps, including ULFA, NDFB and KLO hideouts, were targeted, leading to 650 militants being "neutralised".
2006/ Myanmar (January)
India and Myanmar reportedly conducted joint military operations inside Myanmar, targeting NSCN (K) militants in exchange of transfer of some military equipment to Myanmar Army by India.
2011, July/ Operation Ginger
Over a few weeks in the summer of 2011, India and Pakistan staged two of the bloodiest cross-border surgical strikes in which at least 13 soldiers were killed, and six of them decapitated. Five of those heads were carried across the border as trophies — two to Pakistan and three to India.
Official documents, video and photographic evidence accessed by the The Hindu, chillingly capture the two cross-border raids and the brutality of the tit-for-tat cycle which seems far deadlier than what is publicly acknowledged.
Major General (retired) S.K. Chakravorty, who planned and executed the operation as the chief of Kupwara-based 28 Division, confirmed the raid to The Hindu.
However, he refused to discuss further details.
The Pakistani raiders struck a remote army post in Gugaldhar ridge in Kupwara, on the afternoon of July 30, 2011, surprising the six soldiers from the Rajput and Kumaon regiments. The 19 Rajput Battalion was to be replaced by 20 Kumaon around the time the Pakistani Border Action Team (BAT) struck. The attacking team took back the heads of Havildar Jaipal Singh Adhikari and Lance Naik Devender Singh of 20 Kumaon. A soldier of the 19 Rajput, who reported the attack, died later in a hospital.
In revenge, the Indian Army planned Operation Ginger, which would turn out to be one of the deadliest cross-border raids carried out by the Indian Army in recent memory.
To carry out the revenge attack at least seven reconnaissance — physical and air surveillance mounted on UAV — missions were carried out to identify potential targets.
Consequently, three Pakistani army posts were determined to be vulnerable: Police Chowki, a Pakistani army post near Jor, Hifazat and Lashdat lodging point. The mission was to spring an ambush on Police Chowki to inflict maximum casualty.
According to a secret report of the raid, accessed by this newspaper, different teams for ambush, demolition, surgical strike and surveillance were constituted following the Gugaldhar beheadings.
A few days after the beheading, Indian Army discovered a video clip from a Pakistani militant who was killed in an encounter while crossing into Kashmir, showing Pakistanis standing around the severed heads of Adhikari and Singh displayed on raised platform. The Hindu has a copy of the video.
After repeated recce over two months, the Army launched Operation Ginger on Tuesday, August 30. According to one of those involved in the operation, “We decided on Tuesday because in the past, including in Kargil war (of 1999) we always tasted victory on this day. We deliberately planned the operation just a day before the Eid as it was the time when Pakistanis least expected a retaliation,” he said.
For the strike, about 25 soldiers, mainly Para Commandos, reached their launch-pad at 3 a.m. on August 29 and hid there until 10 p.m. They then crossed over the Line of Control to reach close to Police Chowki. By 4 a.m. on August 30, the planned day of the attack, the ambush team was deep within the enemy territory waiting to strike.
Over the next hour, claymore mines were placed around the area and the commandos took positions for the ambush, waiting for clearance through secure communication route. At 7 a.m. on August 30, the troops saw four Pakistani soldiers, led by a Junior Commissioned Officer, walking towards the ambush site. They waited till the Pakistanis reached the site then detonated the mines. In the explosions all four were grieviously injured. Then the raiding commandoes lobbed grenades and fired at them.
One of the Pakistani soldiers fell into a stream that ran below. Indian soldiers rushed to chop off the heads of the other three dead soldiers. They also took away their rank insignias, weapons and other personal items. The commandos then planted pressure IED’s beneath one of the bodies, primed to explode when anyone attempted to lift the body.
Hearing the explosions, two Pakistani soldiers rushed from the post but were killed by a second Indian team waiting near the ambush site. Two other Pakistani army men tried to trap the second team but a third team covering them from behind eliminated the two, says an official report.
While the Indian soldiers were retreating, another group of Pakistani soldiers were spotted moving from Police Chowki towards the ambush site. Soon they heard loud explosions, indicating the triggering of the IEDs planted under the body, according to the report. According to assessment, at least two to three more Pakistani soldiers were killed in that blast.
The operation had lasted 45 minutes, and the Indian team left the area by 7.45 a.m. to head back across the LoC. The first team reached an Indian army post at 12 noon and the last party by 2.30 p.m.. They had been inside enemy territory for about 48 hours, including for reconnaissance. At least eight Pakistani troops had been killed and another two or three more Pakistani soldiers may have been fatally injured in the action. Three Pakistani heads — of Subedar Parvez, Havildar Aftab and Naik Imran — three AK 47 rifles and other weapons were among the trophies carried back by the Indian soldiers.
“But this was not without the heart pounding moments. We got a message on our secure line that one of our jawans accidentally fell on a mine and blew his finger while exfiltrating. Till the time you have seen the person, it was difficult to say what exactly could have happened. He came back safely with his buddies,” said the source.
The severed heads were photographed, and buried on the instructions of senior officers. Two days later, one of the senior most Generals in the command turned up and asked the team about the heads. “When he came to know that we had buried them, he was furious and asked us to dig up the heads, burn them and throw the ashes into the Kishenganga, so that no DNA traces are left behind. We did so,” said the source.
The sequence of events
July 30, 2011 - An Army post near LoC in Kupwara, comprising six men, is raided by Pakistani Army. Two personnel - Jaipal Singh Adhikari and Lance Naik Devender Singh are killed and beheaded. When they were about to behead the third personnel, a quick reaction team arrives and Pakistani Army fled with two heads. Immediately after this, Operation Ginger is planned. Three targets are chosen.
Sometime in August, Army recovers a mobile phone from a militant’s body, which contained a video clip where some jihadis and Pakistani Army personnel are seen dancing around the severed heads of Adhikari and Singh.
Army plans Operation Ginger for August 30, 2011, a day before Eid when Pakistan would be least expecting any retaliation.
Seven reconnaissance — physical and technical are carried out with the help of UAVs and human intelligence.
Three targets are chosen — Police Chowki near Jor, Hifazat and Lashdat lodging points across LoC in Kupwara.
It is decided to spring an ambush on Police chowki-Jor to inflict maximum casualty as it housed 40 Pakistani Army people.
August 29, 2011: Four teams leave for the Police Chowki, which is actually an Army post located 400 yards away from the LoC. The troops reach their launchpad at 3 am and stay put till 10 pm.
Around 12 midnight, the teams cross the LoC and take position metres away from the Police Chowki around 4 am.
From 4 am to 7 am, the teams fan out in different directions. They ring the area around the police chowki with claymore mines.
At 7 am, the troops observe four Pakistani soldiers walking towards the ambush site, they are trapped in the mines and fall down. Indian Army lobs grenades and opens fire at the four men. One of them is swept away after he fell down in a river stream flowing along. Anticipating immediate response from the Police Chowki, the team decapitated the three available bodies and collected the severed heads, weapons, mobile phones, insignias and their name badges.
To inflict more casualties, the team planted pressure IED’s beneath the bodies, which would have exploded had anyone lifted them.
Two Pakistani personnel who rushed from the police chowki, were killed by the another team waiting near the ambush site.
Two other Pakistani Army men tried to trap the demolition team, another special party waiting a little behind eliminated these two with small arms fire.
The operation lasted 45 minutes.
The first team came back at 12 noon and the last party reached by 2.30 pm.
In the meantime, the GOC 28 Infantry Division received a message that one of the jawans accidentally fell on a mine and injured his finger, he is the only one who has not returned. Finally at 6 pm, the jawan showed up.
Indian Army buries the severed heads of Pakistani Army men. It is then decided to burn the heads and flow them in Kishenganga river.
Tactical level strikes were carried out on September 1, 2011, July 28, 2013, and January 14, 2014 Covert becomes overt: Congress spells out three strikes UPA carried out, Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: October 6, 2016, Indian Express
Five Indian and three Pakistani soldiers were killed in a shooting between August 30 and September 1, 2011 across the Line of Control in Kupwara district/Neelum Valley.
The Congress on Monday claimed the UPA II, like the NDA government, had also conducted “surgical strikes” — but without making them public. The party listed three dates — September 1, 2011; July 28, 2013; and, January 14, 2014 — when the strikes took place. The Manmohan Singh government, known for its publicly stated policy of “strategic restraint”, was in power at the time.
While the strikes were not made public, a look at events around those dates offers some clues into what could have transpired.
September 1, 2011
Five Indian and three Pakistani soldiers were killed in a shooting between August 30 and September 1, 2011 across the Line of Control in Kupwara district/Neelum Valley. Both countries accused the other of initiating hostilities.
Pakistani media reports claimed fighting started when Indian security forces opened fire on a Pakistani checkpoint on the LoC in Neelum Valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Spokesman of the Inter Services Public Relations, Major General Athar Abbas, confirmed the incident while talking to BBC Urdu. He said the attack was unprovoked. He also claimed that three soldiers were going from one post to another when they got lost due to bad weather and, after a 24-hour search, their bodies were recovered.
But Lieutenant Colonel J S Brar, spokesman of the Indian Army, claimed that Pakistan had made an infiltration bid in Keran sector of J&K’s Kupwara district on August 30, which was foiled by Indian security forces.
Brar claimed that on the night of August 31, an Indian border post was fired at by Pakistani troops. Both sides exchanged fire for hours, leading to the casualties.
Prior to that incident, ties between the two countries had been on a mend. About six months earlier, the then PM Manmohan Singh had invited Pakistan PM Yousaf Raza Gilani to watch the Cricket World Cup final in Mohali, being played between India and Pakistan on March 30. A day before the meeting of the PMs, home secretaries from both countries were scheduled to meet to discuss the progress on the 26/11 terror probe.
Focus was also on economic ties. In April 2011, the commerce secretaries met in Islamabad. The thrust was on Pakistan granting the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, and India removing the non-tariff barriers to Pakistani products.
In May, 2011, India released a list of 50 ‘Most Wanted Fugitives’ hiding in Pakistan, including Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed, meant to pressure Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad. But after two errors were discovered on the list, the CBI removed it from their website pending a review and the Pakistani interior ministry rejected it altogether.
July 28, 2013
On July 27, a Pakistan Army soldier was reportedly killed and another seriously injured in “unprovoked” firing by Indian troops from across the LoC, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported. According to Pakistan Army’s ISPR wing, the incident took place on Rawlakot’s Nezapir sector near the LoC.
The Pakistani foreign office strongly condemned the shooting, saying it was “unfortunate that such an incident should have taken place at a time when the two governments are making sincere efforts towards improving relations”. But the Indian Army blamed Pakistani troops for violating ceasefire.
Later, on the night of July 30, 2013, there were reports that four Pakistani men were killed near Katwar post in India. India said the men were “intruders” and “militants”, but Pakistan disputed that claim and said the men were “local civilians” plucking herbs and had strayed close to the LoC when they were abducted by Indian soldiers.
The year 2013 had started on a tense note. On January 8, 2013, Pakistan Army’s Border Action Team, wearing black combat uniforms, crossed the LoC and ambushed an Indian Army patrol team, killing two soldiers of the 13 Rajputana Rifles and injuring two others. The skirmish reportedly lasted about 30 minutes, after which the intruders retreated from Indian territory. Two soldiers were killed and their bodies were reportedly found mutilated, with one decapitated.
All through 2013, diplomatic talks between the two countries could not move forward because of the tense atmosphere.
January 14, 2014
On January 13, 2014, the then Army Chief General Bikram Singh said that a strong reply had been given to last year’s cross-border raids by Pakistan, referring to reports that 10 Pakistani soldiers had been killed in Indian action across the LoC.
Asked what retaliatory action had been taken, the Army Chief said that soldiers “have reacted well as required” and that there is an endeavour “not to escalate the situation into operational or strategic arena”.
“It depends, if rules are followed by our neighbours, we follow the rules. If rules are broken, then obviously we cannot stick to the rules. Even we are going to break the rules,” Singh had said.
Two days after January 14, 2014, Pakistan’s commerce minister Khurram Dastgir Khan visited India and met the then commerce minister Anand Sharma, and the two sides agreed to expedite the implementation of the liberal trade regime.
About three weeks earlier, the Directors General of Military Operation had met in Wagah after 14 years — their first meeting since the 1999 Kargil war. Coming at the end of a year that saw an unprecedented number of cross-border violations since the 2003 ceasefire agreement came into place, the meeting was seen as an effort to normalise the relationship.
During the meeting, the Indian side had strongly raised the issue of at least two cross-border raids that resulted in the death of seven Indian soldiers and also conveyed that it does not expect a repeat of 2013 that saw over 195 ceasefire violations on the LoC. DGMO Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia and Pakistan’s Maj Gen Aamer Riaz also decided to hold two flag meetings between the Brigade Commanders on the LoC.
The meeting of the two DGMOs was aimed at reducing tension on the border and had been agreed upon in September, 2013 — when the then PM Manmohan Singh met his counterpart Nawaz Sharif at the UN in New York.
2013/ ? on the LOC (January)
[In 2016] none other than former army chief, Gen Bikram Singh, has come on record to say that such strikes by Indian soldiers have taken place in the past as well, including in the wake of the decapitation of two Indian soldiers in January 2013 when Manmohan Singh's UPA was in power.
The difference [in 2016 was] that [PM] Modi made a political call to own the cross-LoC strikes. In 2013, no one knew that such a strike had even taken place.
2015/ Myanmar (June)
Indian Army's strike inside Myanmar took 70 commandos and 40 minutes to kill 38 Naga insurgents.
2015: Myanmar operation modified mid-way
The Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat, who was commander of the 3 Corps at Dimapur in the Northeast when the Army carried out a surgical strike across the Myanmar border in 2015, said that he had to halt the operation moments before the launch to provide details to the government and make changes in the original plan.
“We were about to launch the operation when I got a call from Delhi that we need to do something to avenge the militant ambush on an army convoy. I also got a call from the then Army chief (Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag) and the national security advisor (NSA), who sought to know whether I had something in mind,”said the Army chief on Friday. “I was taken aback as I had set the operation on course and the troops were at the border. We had to halt the team and the commanding officer (CO) of the special forces (SF) called to brief the NSA about the operation,” he said at a book launch event.
On June 4, 2015, 18 soldiers of the 6 Dogra battalion, then deployed on the Myanmar-Manipur border, were killed in an ambush by an insurgent group in the Chandel area of Manipur. The ambush was carried out when the battalion was de-inducting and was set to move to a peace station at Chandigarh.
He said, “The troops which had reached the Myanmar border had to later change their route while carrying out the operation, four days from the day it was initially planned, to avoid the risk of getting noticed by insurgent groups. The SF troops had to wear the uniforms of the 12 Bihar Battalion, which was deployed on the border. They later occupied the forward posts overnight. We had to launch the operation to rejuvenate the morale of the troops following the loss of soldiers in the ambush. We wanted to send a strong message to the insurgents that such activity will not be tolerated and repercussions will be harsher.”
Gen Rawat said, “We had not planned for a situation where the troops may come across civilians after crossing over to Myanmar as the operation was launched around midnight. The troops did encounter three local hunters with dogs and got hold of them and tied them up. We were not carrying morphine, so we had to leave a party of 10 soldiers to look after them. When the troops crossed the border, they found forward militant bunkers empty as it was breakfast time. Our troops launched an attack on the dining hall, causing heavy losses to the group.”
2016: inside Pakistan's territory
‘Leopards' urine helped Army’
EX-COMMANDER REVEALS SURGICAL STRIKES SECRETS
Army troops used leopard’s urine and faeces to throw off dogs while carrying out surgical strikes, 15km inside Pakistan territory in 2016, former Nagrota Corps commander Lt Gen Rajendra Nimborkar said on Tuesday.
City-based Thorle Bajirao Peshwe Pratishthan awarded Nimborkar for his contribution to the strikes. The award was given away by former chief minister Manohar Joshi.
Nimborkar, who served as brigade commander in Nowshera sector, had studied the biodiversity of the area minutely. “While in the sector, we had experienced that leopards often attack dogs in the areas. To save themselves from the attack, dogs prefer to stay in the locality during night,” Nimborkar told TOI.
“While devising the operational strategy, we were aware about possible dogs barking and attack while crossing villages on the route. To counter it, our troops carried leopards’ urine and faeces. They used to spray it outside the village. This move worked well and the dogs left them alone,” Nimborkar added.
Nimborkar said the Army had maintained highest secrecy.
“Then defence minister Manohar Parrikar had told us to execute the operation in a week. I had discussed this with our troops a week in advance but didn’t reveal the exact location. They came to know about it a day prior to the attack,” he said. To execute the operation, Lt Gen Nimborkar said, we had chosen early morning. “We had identified the terrorists’ launch pads. We had studied their timings and got to know that 3.30am is a perfect time to attack. Before that, our troops had to reach a safe location. They had successfully crossed difficult terrains and mine fields. They destroyed three pads and killed 29 terrorists. Our troops have videographed the operation,” he said, adding that, the operation was executed by paratroopers and soldiers.
Post operation, the former master general ordnance said the surprise factor had stunned the Pakistan army’s military leaders. “It has sent a stern message to the Pakistan government that the Indian army, if it decides, can launch a strong attack in retaliation,” he said.
2016/ Myanmar border (Aug) 'Surgical strike' against NSCN (K)
- A major gun battle took place between Army troops and suspected NSCN (K) militants along the India-Myanmar border
- The militants fled back into Myanmar leaving some weapons behind
MON (Nagaland): A major gunbattle took place between Army troops and suspected National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) militants along the India-Myanmar border, in the Mon district of Nagaland, on Friday. Unconfirmed media reports said at least 30 Indian paratroopers had conducted a "surgical strike" inside Myanmar, and quoted the NSCN-K+ as claiming that it had killed "five to six" commandos. However, Army sources rejected the reports and said the gunbattle took place inside Indian territory .
The fierce encounter took place near Throilu village in Mon district on "our side of the border" at about 5.30am, said Army sources. "Our troops had laid an ambush along a known infiltration route. After the ensuing gunfight, the militants fled back into Myanmar. They left some weapons behind. There were no casualties on our side," said a source.
In June last year+ , days after militants had killed 18 Army soldiers, Indian special forces had conducted a surgical military strike across the Myanmar border to inflict "significant casualties" on the groups behind that ambush, NSCN (K) and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL). Soldiers of Assam Rifles and NSCN(K) cadres exchanged heavy fire at about 4am near Chenmoho in Nagaland's Mon district, which shares its eastern border with Myanmar, state police said on Friday.
"There was heavy exchange of fire between NSCN (K) cadres and Assam Rifles soldiers. The incident was reported early in the morning. As of now, no casualties have been reported," Yangba Konyak, SP (Mon), was quoted as saying by news agencies. Sources said senior officials had reached the spot for stock-taking. NSCN(K) is a banned militant outfit which last March abrogated a 14-year-old ceasefire with the Centre.
Why covert operations should stay covert
Why these military ops should stay covert by Manimugdha Sharma The Times of India
Surgical strikes in enemy territory have always been kept a secret by Indian forces
Military historian and strategic affairs expert Mandeep Singh Bajwa said he could count at least two dozen instances [between 1947 and May 2015] when India struck inside enemy territory . “[That is] how militancy in Punjab ended and how it was curbed in Kashmir,” says Bajwa.
In 1971, some very large-scale covert and overt operations were conducted without the Press hearing about it. One of them was Operation Jackpot under which Mukti Bahini commandos were aided and abetted by India to blow up Pakistan's naval assets in the east. This was long before the actual war. “Even before that, there was Operation Windfall where we silently moved two mountain divisions, one towards Balurghat and the other towards Jessore and Khulna. Initially, troops went across in civilian clothes, then in uniform. Pakistanis were completely outclassed and outsmarted by the Indians. That's how wars are fought and won,“ says Bajwa.
The late 1980s, 1990s
“When Pakistan started supporting the Khalistan movement and there were terror attacks on our cities, Rajiv Gandhi decided he had had enough of it. Pakistani cities like Lahore, Multan and Karachi were bombed, which Pakistan claimed were done by RAW . This forced General Zia to sue for peace through the Prince of Jordan and promise withdrawal of support to Sikh militancy ,“ says Bajwa.
His claims are supported by historian Dilip Hiro's 2015 book, The Longest August, which goes on to detail how Benazir Bhutto, after coming to power, promised Rajiv Gandhi that she would totally dismantle the Khalistan support system in Pakistan, triggering the total collapse of the separatist movement.
“Similarly, in Kashmir, terrorism has been curbed through both overt and covert operations. Pakistan blamed India for the 2000 Lanjote massacre, which India denied. But after that, attacks on Hindus in Doda and Rajouri districts stopped,“ says Bajwa.
Uri: Sept 2016 reprisals for attack on
Details, in brief
The Army gave an account of the combat operation and the raw courage displayed by them in the citations of the gallantry award.
Planning to execute the surgical strike on the terror infrastructure in PoK started soon after the Uri terror attack in J&K.
Army soldiers demonstrate 'Surgical Strike' during Army day parade 2017. (TOI Photo)Army soldiers demonstrate 'Surgical Strike' during Army day parade 2017. (TOI Photo)
"You don't get a maroon beret, you have to earn it," this is said about all those men who aspire to join Parachute Regiment, the Army's premier airborne strike force. The September 29 surgical strike on terror launch pads+ across LoC was the latest feat of daredevilry by the men from this elite force. But the government had refused to divulge the details of the operation in which 19 Para soldiers took part.
It was only while bestowing medals to these bravehearts+ on the 68th Republic Day, the Army gave an account of the combat operation and the raw courage displayed by them in the citations of the gallantry awards. While scores of Army personnel might have been involved in the planning and execution of the cross-LoC operation, the 19 para soldiers were integral part of the surgical strike, the citations say.
One Colonel, five Majors, two Captains, one Subedar, two Naib Subedars, three Havildars, one Lance Naik and four Paratroopers of the 4th and 9th battalions of the Para Regiment took part in the surgical strike.
While Major Rohit Suri from the 4th Para was awarded a Kirti Chakra, Col Harpreet Sandhu, commanding officer of 4 Para, was honoured with a Yudh Seva Medal. The team also won four Shaurya Chakras and 13 Seva Medals. Colonel Harpreet Sandhu, who was tasked to undertake two simultaneous strikes on launch pads, was awarded a Yudh Seva Medal for formulating the strike plan and ensuring its execution flawlessly.
The Army started planning to execute the surgical strike on the terror infrastructure in PoK soon after the Uri terror attack in J&K+ in which 17 soldiers were killed, but it was awaiting an 'amavasya' (moon-less) night to execute the operation. Finally on the intervening night of September 28-29, Major Rohit Suri, heading an eight-member strike team, was tasked to carry out strikes on the terror infrastructure.
After carrying out a recce, Major Suri directed his team to engage the terrorists in the open at a launchpad. Suri and his buddy came within just 50m of the target and neutralised two terrorists. Once the terrorists in the open were killed, Major Suri noticed movement of two suspected jihadis in the nearby jungle. The movement of two terrorists was also being tracked with an UAV. Major Suri ignoring his safety intercepted the terrorists and engaged them in close fight, eliminating both of them. Another Major was tasked to undertake close-target surveillance of the launchpads on September 27. The officer, along with his assault group, crossed the LoC 48 hours prior to the strike and kept the target under close surveillance till the day of the strike. His team mapped the target zone, location of automatic weapons and different firing positions the strike team could use. The officer destroyed a weapon shelter, killing two terrorists. During the attack, his squad came under fire from a nearby weapon shelter. Sensing danger to his squad, the Major, who was honoured with Shaurya Chakra, crawled near the shelter and eliminated one more terrorist, silencing the gun fire.
The third Major along with his buddy closed in on a terror shelter and destroyed it, killing all jihadis sleeping inside. Thereafter, he guided other members of the strike group to safety. Major, who too was awarded Shaurya Chakra, kept his superiors posted about the progress of the operation during the strike. The fourth Major was awarded a Sena medal for destroying an automatic weapon fortification with his grenade attack and killing two terrorists at close range.
The surgical strike was not an easy operation. The strike team came under heavy fire from terrorists. The fifth Major spotted three terrorists carrying RPG (rocket-propelled grenades), who were about to target the squad led by the fourth Major. But before the terrorists could attack, the fifth Major, unmindful of his safety, engaged the terrorists in a gunfight and neutralised the two. His buddy eliminated the third terrorist.
Not only officers, even JCOs and paratroopers showed exemplary courage. A Naib Subedar, who was awarded Shaurya Chakra, fired grenades at a terrorists' fortification, killing two terrorists and destroying the launch pad. When he saw a terrorist firing at his team, he pushed his buddy to safety and charged at the terrorist and eliminated him.
Though no soldier was killed in the operation, a paratrooper, who was part of the surveillance team, suffered injuries during the operation. After spotting two terrorists who were moving dangerously towards a strike squad, the paratrooper chased them but accidentally stepped on a mine, which blew up his right foot. Unmindful of his injuries, the paratrooper engaged the terrorists and killed one of them.
The sequence of events
PAYBACK FOR URI: In `Surgical Strikes', Army Hits 7 Terror Launchpads In PoK On A Dim-Moon Night, Kills 40-55
In a stunning reprisal for the Uri terror attack [on Sept 18, 2016], India conducted “surgical strikes“ on seven terrorist “launch pads“ across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in the early hours of [29 Sept 2016] . Top government sources said that it was “not possible to immediately quantify“ the number of terrorists killed in the strikes carried out by crack Para-Special Forces who simultaneously hit five launchpads located 1.5-6.5 km inside PoK. “According to an initial estimate, as many as 40 to 55 terrorists were killed. But it will take some time to arrive at the approximate number of casualties after the Para-SF teams are properly de-briefed and photographs and videos analysed,“ said a source.
Unlike earlier engagements, the government and the Army boldly proclaimed they had undertaken a big operation across the LoC and justified it by citing an imminent terror threat.
Director General of Military Operation Lt Gen Ranbir Singh along with home minister Rajnath Singh and NSA Ajit Doval told leaders that around 200 soldiers were involved in the operation.
This marked the abandonment of “strategic restraint“: The doctrine which eschewed use of military reprisals for fear of a nuclear conflict and its replacement by a posture of effective military retribution and, more crucially , of pre-emption. It was a stark announcement that the fear of a nuclear showdown has ceased to be a deterrent for India The DGMO justified the action by citing “specific and credible' inputs of terrorist teams positioning themselves at launch pads at LoC “to carry out infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes inside J&K and in various metros“.
Disclosing that he had called his Pakistan counterpart to inform him of the raids, Gen Singh asserted that while the action had ceased, India could undertake similar operations whenever faced with threat to its nationals.
The action came against the clamour for reprisal and mounting pressure on the Modi government to walk its “tough-on-terror“ talk. But while BJP and the government has reason to celebrate, the tough response passed muster with the entire political class, with even opponents who accused Modi government for being `hawkish' applauding the feat of Army and pledging support: a development which could lead to setting of a new benchmark for response to Pakistan-backed terrorism.
The raids, coming a day after Pakistan defence minister Mohammad Khwaja's threat to nuke India, caught Islamabad unawares. It denied the strikes, but soon came around to accept that two of its soldiers had been killed and nine injured in “cross-border firing“. Its different power centres reacted differently, with the Army seeking to downplay the embarrassment, and the civilian leadership warning against more such adventures.
The covert Para-SF raids on the five launch pads were backed by “concentrated fire assaults“ to target two other launch pads -each typically has 10-20 terrorists, 4-5 guides and 5-10 assistants -and three Pakistan army posts across the LoC. The pads are used by terrorists just prior to crossing the LoC and never for more than a couple of days at a time.
After the five teams of 200 commandos from 4 Paras-SF and 9 Para-SF units returned safely after “achieving the desired full impact“ before sunrise on Thursday , Lt-Gen Singh also spoke to his Pakistani counterpart to inform him that the “operations aimed at neutralising terrorists“ had ended.
After UAVs and other intelligence gave “specific and credible inputs“ about the presence of terrorists being positioned at the launch pads kept under constant surveillance for the last few days, the Para-SF teams were directed to spring into action just after “last light“ on Wednesday .Carrying heavy weapon loads, they quietly slipped across the LoC around midnight to finally reach the launch pads by around 3am, skirting Pakistan army posts at altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 6,000 feet, said sources.
The commandos then let loose with all the firepower at their command, finishing their designated tasks by around 4.30am. Nine of them were injured, one slightly seriously in a mine blast. “But they do not leave their comrades behind... all safely made it back to our side before sunrise. Towards the end, Pakistan Army did indulge in some speculative firing but there were no casualties. During the entire operation, the Army and IAF were on high alert for any intervention or extrication mission if the need arose,“ said the source.
Convincing Pakistan’s friends
India's preemptive strikes across the LoC were more than a military operation. The tightly-scripted action was to rework the framework of engagement with Pakistan, while the overt acknowledgement was necessary for the domestic audience.
The government laid out the ground in the preceding days, briefing key countries about the spike in infiltration and mounting evidence gathered by India including captured terrorists. These included the P-5 countries and key nations such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE, all Pakistan allies. China was briefed during the Sept 27 counterterrorism dialogue.
The Indian line that the strike came after intelligence pointed to an imminent large-scale strike may have been intended more for the domestic constituency . However, the government expects some degree of retaliation by Pakistan.
The next step was to mount a diplomaticpolitical offensive, which included giving information to the Pak envoy and responding to its invective in the UN.
Modi's Kerala speech lulled people into thinking proactive diplomacy would be all India would do but more robust actions followed this week -cornering Pakistan on Indus Waters Treaty and cancelling the Saarc summit. India is now expected to review the MFN status accorded to Pakistan and restricting Pakistan's use of Indian airspace.
DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh described the strikes as being “along the LoC“ but anybody looking at the targets, terrorist launch pads, is aware they are across the LoC. One of the DGMO's first actions was to inform his counterpart of the strike, clarify it was a oneoff and express sympathy for deaths of Pak soldiers stressing the intent was to go after terror camps. The strike was pitched as a counter-terror op, not a military operation, giving Pakistan reason to resist calls for retaliatory escalation.
After the strikes, national security adviser Ajit Doval called his US counterpart, Susan Rice.The White House readout later said Ambassador Rice “strongly condemned“ the attack in Uri.
Before going public, the government briefed the President, vice-president, former PM Manmohan Singh and the J&K leadership.Foreign secretary S Jaishankar later briefed foreign journalists, 28 envoys, think tanks and TV commentators.
Planning the operation
It took the Indian Army 10 days to avenge the terror attack on its Uri camp. This is how events unfolded:
Terror attack on Uri Army camp, 19 soldiers killed, over 20 injured.
PM Modi briefed with detailed maps and sand models in military ops directorate with Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag and Northern Command chief Lt-Gen D S Hooda.
PM gives go-ahead for surgical strikes after another briefing in MO Directorate.
• Army had 7 launch pads, 1.5km to 6.5km across LoC, under constant surveillance through spy drones.
• Launch pads are shelters from where infiltration bids are made.
• Terrorists belonging to multiple groups assemble here typically for 24-48 hours before trying to cross over.
• Each launch pad has 10-20 terrorists, 4-5 guides & 5-10 support people at any given time.
• Army put to use Isro’s Cartosat images for the first time.
• Cartosat-2C added teeth to India’s military surveillance capabilities.
• It’s been providing high-resolution images of 0.65m, an improvement over the 0.8m resolution of earlier missions.
'Area of Interest' images
AOI images, which are taken from space and are corrected to a uniform scale, proved useful to the Army.
Soon after terrorists were spotted at the launch pads, five ParaSpecial Forces teams (150 para-commandos) were given the go-ahead to strike designated targets Wednesday afternoon.
First major use of Cartosat images for Army
- The surgical strike was facilitated by Isro's Cartosat images
- Cartosat images are called ‘eye in the sky’
- This satellite can click pictures of areas of interest, record videos of sensitive targets from space, compress it, and relay it back to earth
Surgical Strikes: First major use of Cartosat images for Army
BENGALURU: In what's being described as the first major use of the Cartosat family of satellites, the last one (2c) launched in June this year, sources in Isro said that the armed forces were aided by high-resolution images for the surgical strikes+ conducted across the line of control+ (LoC) in the small hours of Thursday.
A source in Isro said: "We've been providing images to the armed forces, the army in particular. While I cannot comment if any specific image was sent on a particular day in the previous week, I can say that Cartosat images are meant for this purpose and the army has used this."
Both Isro and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have largely remained tight-lipped about the uses of the Cartosat family of satellites—which experts call India's 'eye in the sky'—built for dual use.
The Cartosat-2C in particular added more teeth to India's military surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and has been providing high resolution images of 0.65 metres, an improvement over the 0.8m resolution of the earlier missions.
"Cartosat also provided Area of Interest (AOI) based images for the armed forces," the source said. Another explained that based on requests, one or more scenes/images covering the AOI as specified is provided in as a single polygon (all the areas in one circle) in the form of a shapefile (non-topological geometry and attribute information for the spatial features).
According to the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in Hyderabad, AOI products are of two types—standard and precision-based ortho (where images taken from space are corrected to have an uniform scale—both of which are useful for the armed forces. Ortho rectified products are corrected for terrain distortions and camera tilt effects.
While the first Cartosat was launched in 2005, Cartosat-2A launched in 2007 was the first dual-use satellite with capabilities of monitoring missile launches in India's neighbourhood.
And, the Cartosat-2C is the best in the class that India boasts of although countries like the US and Israel boast of better ones. This satellite can not only click pictures of areas of interest, but also record videos of sensitive targets from space, compress it, and relay it back to earth.
Inadvertent corroboration by POK police
A senior officer of Pakistan police has purportedly admitted that India pulled off a surgical strike across the LoC last week, an Indian TV channel claimed on Wednesday .
According to a CNN-News 18 report, the police officer was given the impression that he was speaking to a senior cop, while actually talking to a journalist, and recorded, as part of a sting operation.
Ghulam Akbar, SP (special branch) of the Mirpur range in POK, reportedly began rattling off details about the events of September 29 and confirmed the claims made by India. “Sir, that was night...you can say roughly 3-4 hours... between 2am and 4 or 5am... the attack continued between that time,“ Akbar reportedly said.
He is heard purportedly confirming that India had struck at terror launch pads in areas, like Leepa, mentioned in reports on the attack. Akbar identifies areas that he “personally knew“ were attacked that night -Samana in Bhimber, Hazira in Poonch, Dudhniyal in Neelam, and Kayani in Hathian Bala.
Akbar is heard stating that the Pakistan army was caught unawares and lost five soldiers, whose names were re vealed but not broadcast by the channel, and that the bodies of an unknown number of terrorists were quickly removed by the Pakistani military . He said Pakistan army personnel put the bodies in ambulances and took them away , adding that many had been buried in villages. He said policemen “are evaluating the coffin boxes“.
The SP added that the Pakistan army cordoned off the aforementioned areas after the surgical strike.
In another revelation that could put Pakistan in a spot, Akbar also purported ly revealed that the Pakistan army facilitated the movement of jihadis in forward areas and arranges for their infiltration into India. “The army brings them, sir...it is in their hands,“ he is heard saying, and that he can't “give accurate numbers because the Pakistan army protects the jihadi infrastructure from even the local authorities and police.
Radio Intercepts From Pak Army Suggest `Mass Burial'
Radio Intercepts From Pak Army Suggest `Mass Burial'
The Army's surgical strikes last month on terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) inflicted the maximum damage on terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to assessment reports detailing intercepts of the Pakistan army's radio conversations from the day.
According to the reports prepared by the Army's field units after the strikes, around 20 militants of the Pakistanbased group were killed in the operation. Sources privy to the details of the operation said on Sunday that LeT received the deadliest knock at Dudniyal in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (POK), opposite north Kashmir's Kupwara sector.
The sources said five Ar my teams were tasked with destroying the launch pads at Kail, also known as Kel and Dudniyal. In a well calibrated operation on the intervening night of September 28 and 29, the teams smashed four launch pads that fell under the watch of a Pakistani post located 700 metres from the LoC. The terrorists, mainly LeT members, were caught off-guard, and killed while running towards the Pakistani post, according to the assessment reports.
The reports were put together by way of an “effective radio surveillance and strict vigil“ in the aftermath of the strike, the sources said. Intercepts from the Pakistan army's ensuing radio conversations indicated that at least 10 LeT terrorists were killed at Dudniyal. The strike was followed by a “heavy movement“ of Pakistan army vehicles that continued until dawn, and all the bodies were taken away for a mass burial in the Neelum valley, the sources said. Nine LeT men were killed in the Army's strike on terror launch pads located at Balnoi, opposite Poonch, according to the radio intercepts.Two Pakistani soldiers of the 8 Northern Light Infantry regiment were also killed in the strike, the sources said. According to the insiders, the radio conversations between the various formations of Pakistan army fell silent after 8.30am on September 29.
According to the sources, the strike was preceded by intelligence reports that terrorists were planning to enter India from various directions through Jammu & Kashmir.The Army, the sources added, waited for the terrorists to begin gathering at one place before launching the surgical strikes, which have been hailed worldwide as an exercise in self-defence.
Pakistan has disputed that India carried out surgical strikes, only only admitting that two soldiers were killed in cross-border firing.
However, the radio intercepts, the sources said, seem to contest the claims as the duty officer associated with the director general of military operations in Pakistan was informed about the strikes after they had been pulled off.
Tactical Op Carried Out By 5-6 Armymen
A small team of the Indian Army’s “Ghatak” commandos clandestinely crossed the Line of Control in the Rawlakot-Rakhchakri sector
of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and killed at least three Pakistani soldiers and injured a few others, leading to a surge in the ongoing cross-border firing between the two countries.
The limited “tit-for-tat” operation was carried out to avenge the killing of four Indian soldiers, including Major Moharkar Prafulla Ambadas, by a Pakistani border action team (BAT) at Keri, in J&K’s Rajouri sector, on Saturday.
“It was a localised, selective targeting raid around 250-300 metres inside Pakistani (held) territory by five to six Ghatak commandos of an infantry battalion,” said a senior Army officer.
‘Pak has more casualties than India’
Pakistan itself admitted three of its soldiers were killed in the operation though intelligence inputs suggest the toll could be higher,” said a senior Army officer.
The tactical operation, planned by the local battalion commander and approved by the brigade commander, cannot be compared to the “surgical strikes” against terror launch pads in POK by Indian Para-Special Forces on September 29 last year against multiple targets and involving several soldiers.
“The surgical strikes were much bigger in scope and simultaneously targeted four terror launch pads and two Pak Army posts co-located with them, both north and south of Pir Panjal over 2km deep inside Pakistani territory. They were planned at the highest levels,” he said.
Soon after four of its soldiers were killed at Keri on Saturday, the Army further stepped up its electronic and physical surveillance along several stretches of the LoC to “exploit any fleeting opportunity” for effective retaliation.
The opportunity came at about 6pm on Monday when a patrol from the 59 Baluch unit, under the Pak Army’s Rawlakot brigade, was first “hit and left stunned” by an IED (improvised explosive device) placed by the Ghatak commandos around 250-300 metres across the LoC.
“The commandos, who were lying in wait, then opened fire to maximise the damage before swiftly returning to own side of the LoC, with our posts giving them covering fire. A Pak Army sniper was also killed in Jhangar sector of Rajouri on Sunday,” said another officer.
The raid was part of the almost daily war of attrition that continues all along the 778-km LoC, with the two sides engaging in fiery artillerymortar duels and sniping operations as well as undertaking “shallow cross-LoC” raids after detecting vulnerable spots in each other’s deployment and patrolling patterns.
The Indian Army has already recorded over 820 ceasefire violations by the Pak Army along the LoC this year (the figure was just 228 in 2016, 152 in 2015), with 14 soldiers and 10 civilians being killed in them. The Army has lost 17 soldiers during infiltration bids and “incidents” on the LoC, apart from 30 in counter-insurgency operations that have killed over 210 terrorists in J&K this year.
India, of course, has cranked up the pressure on the Pak Army with “preemptive and punitive fire assaults” to destroy locations across the LoC that aid infiltration attempts ever since two Indian soldiers were beheaded and another injured in a BAT operation in the Krishna Ghati sector in Poonch district on May 1.
“Pakistan has suffered many more casualties than us… Their DGMO has made a couple of unscheduled calls over the hotline in the last two-three months to ask for lowering of hostilities,” said an officer.
2019: IAF attack on Balakot
‘Non-Military, Preemptive’: Govt
Air Strike Deep Inside Pak, First Since ’71 War
India conducted pre-dawn aerial strikes on a major Jaish-e-Muhammed terror training facility at Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region on Tuesday, breaking free of its self-imposed shackles in countering the cross-border proxy war fuelled by its hostile neighbour for decades. The strikes came 12 days after the Pulwama attack claimed 40 CRPF troopers.
Twelve Mirage-2000 fighters, backed by four Sukhoi-30MKI jets for ‘air defence’ and two AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) aircraft as ‘eyes and ears of the strike package’, fired a mix of long-range Spice-2000 precision-guided 1,000kg bombs and AGM-142 (Popeye-2) missiles to destroy the Balakot facility, which housed over 300 terrorists, trainers and handlers.
This was the first time after the 1971 Indo-Pak war that IAF fighters deliberately crossed the LoC to pound targets. “The initial plan was not to cross the LoC because the JeM facility is just about 65km away from there as the crow flies, and our weapons had significant ranges of 60-80km,” a
top defence source said. “But five to six Mirage-2000s did cross the LoC by over 10km to let loose weapons from 3.27am onwards for a few minutes before turning back. All aircraft touched down at home bases soon after 4 am,” he added.
India called the strike a “non-military preemptive action” to assuage the international community and give Pakistan some sort of a face-saver.
Mirages took off from Gwalior, not forward base
Fighter jets, midair refuellers and early-warning aircraft from at least five airbases closely coordinated to unleash the “strike package” on the Balakot terror facility. The aim was to blow six targets within the facility to smithereens in two waves of firing. “The six were first hit with one wave of weapons. The second wave was executed once the dust settled after the first hit. The battle damage assessment was 100%,” a top defence source said here.
On February 16, TOI had reported that precision air strikes were the government’s favoured option for retaliatory action following the Pulwama terror attack.
Four Sukhoi-30MKI ‘air dominance’ fighters from the Bareilly and Halwara airbases were tasked with “an air defence role” for the mission, with an additional number on hot stand-by. “Pakistan scrambled some fighters but they went back after seeing the large IAF formation…they never came close,” said the source.
The operation kicked off just after 2am, with the Mirage-2000s taking to the skies from their home base of Gwalior during the “graveyard shift”. The jets were not moved to a forward base before the strikes to retain the element of surprise. “ISI informants are active around forward IAF bases on the western front and promptly report unusual fighter activity,” said a source.
The Mirage-2000s, which underwent mid-air refuelling by Ilyushin-78s based in Agra, took a circuitous route to the Muzaffarabad sector along the LoC by avoiding congested airspaces like the one over New Delhi. IAF also deployed a Phalcon AWACS from Agra and an indigenous mini-AWACS from Bathinda to vector the fighters towards the target and track Pakistani jets.
Reasons for success
Balakot Strike After Intel On Pulwama ‘Celebration’ Meet
Luck was clearly on its side as the Indian security establishment went about planning the air strikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Balakot terrorist training facility in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Armed with information that 300-400 Jaish terrorists, including 25 top commanders, would converge on the Balakot camp to celebrate the Pulwama operation and plan further attacks in India, the Indian forces acted swiftly and virtually flattened the structure in precision air strikes.
Top security officials were pleasantly surprised how things panned out in their favour. First, Jaish, which many believed would turn extra cautious in the wake of pressure brought on it post-Pulwama, decided to get its top leaders and cadres under one roof. Second, the facility where they chose to assemble is far removed from civilian settlements and military camps, making it an ideal target for air strikes as there would be minimum collateral damage.
Third, the strategy session that Jaish was holding at the Balakot facility — a modern structure complete with a playground, swimming pool, racing tracks, firing range and a social media war-room — was to discuss plans to wreak havoc in India by carrying out suicide attacks and bombings over the next two months, coinciding with the general elections. The intelligence gave Indian forces valid ground to launch pre-emptive strikes.
The air strikes blew the Balakot facility to smithereens. Intelligence officials said given the extent of destruction, all occupants of the camp would have been killed.
The importance of Balakot lies in the advanced training facilities it offered. Meant for ‘battle inoculation’ of Jaish fighters, it had several barracks to accommodate the trainees and is known to have housed 200 terrorists at any given time. Many trainers in Balakot were ex-personnel of Pakistan army and ISI.
Sources said Masood Azhar and his brother Mufti Rauf Asghar used to visit the ‘five-star’ terror camp to radicalise and motivate the fidayeen. Alternatively, their videos would be shown to the trainees. Two JeM terrorists interrogated as ‘witnesses’ by the NIA after the Pathankot attack claimed recruits at Balakot camp would go through extensive motivational, physical, military and tactical training.
Jihadi volunteers who successfully completed the basic terror training course — Daura-e-Aam, covering religious indoctrination, grenade throwing, use of small firearms and physical training — would undergo advanced terror training or ‘Daure-e-Khaas’ at the Jaish camp. The facilities covered training in use of big arms and weapons, handling of explosives, assembling IEDs, field tactics, tactics for attacking security convoys, preparations for suicide bombings, rigging vehicles for suicide attacks and survival in high altitude areas and extreme-stress situations.
Even US authorities are familiar with the Balakot camp, having detained Hafez K Rahman, a fighter affiliated with Taliban. Rahman, a Pakistani, told the US authorities he had trained at Balakot camp that offered “basic and advanced terrorist training on explosives and artillery”.
'Operation Bandar': IAF's code name for Balakot air strikes
NEW DELHI: “Operation Bandar (monkey)”. This was the innocuous sounding code-name given by IAF to the pre-dawn air strikes conducted by its Mirage-2000 fighters against the major Jaish-e-Mohammed training facility at Balakot in Pakistan on February 26, with the aim being to maintain overall secrecy of the operation.
The Army, in turn, code-named its heightened operational alert and shoring up of defences along the border to thwart a possible Pakistan retaliation to the air strikes as “Operation Zafran" (saffron flowers used in cooking), said sources on Friday. The Navy, however, did not give any specific name to the deployment of its warships and submarines in the north Arabian Sea because they were already there as part of Tropex-2019 (theatre level operational readiness exercise) underway at that time. The Navy just swiftly changed gears to put its exercise on hold and forward deploy its warships and submarines to deter any misadventure by Pakistan.
“The idea behind the name 'Operation Bandar’ was to give a nondescript, mundane tag to the air strikes to maintain operational secrecy. It was chosen to make it sound like a routine, small-time affair,” said a source.
A dozen Mirage-2000s, backed by IL-78 mid-air refuellers and AWACS (airborne warning and control system) aircraft, were deployed in the “strike package” against Balakot from Gwalior, Agra and Bareilly, instead of forward airbases to retain the element of surprise in the early hours of February 26, as was earlier reported by TOI.
The IAF had also deployed “a decoy package” of Sukhoi-30MKIs ostensibly headed towards the JeM headquarters in Bahawalpur in the Punjab province to ensure Pakistani combat air patrols were lured away from the actual “strike package” meant for Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The IAF says it achieved its “strategic and operational aim of successfully bombing” the JeM terror facility at Balakot, hitting five of the six designated targets with the Spice-2000 precision-guided penetration bombs let loose by the Mirage-2000s.
But the IAF did lose the MiG-21 being flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down an F-16 before he himself ejected and was captured by Pakistani forces, in the aerial skirmish in the Nowshera sector along the Line of Control a day after Operation Bandar.
Moreover, at least one senior IAF officer and three others are also facing stringent disciplinary action for the grave operational lapses that led to “friendly fire” bringing down the Mi-17 helicopter – which killed six IAF personnel and a civilian -- at Budgam around the same time as the aerial skirmish, as reported by TOI earlier.
Pak feared India strike, hid sub for counter-attack
Post-Pulwama, Pak feared India strike, hid sub for counter-attack
Soon after the Pulwama terror attack, India pulled out its Navy from an exercise and deployed a major part of its fleet, including nuclear and conventional submarines, close to Pakistani territorial waters. During the aggressive deployment of the naval assets by the Indian side, the Pakistanis were getting an impression that New Delhi might use its maritime force to avenge the killing of its 40 CRPF personnel in the suicide bombing in J&K by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
India was continuously keeping an eye on the movement of the Pakistani military but after Indian Air Force hit the Jaish camp in Balakot, one of the most advanced Pakistani Agostaclass submarines — PNS Saad — vanished from the Pakistani waters, a senior government source said.
The vanishing act by PNS Saad fitted with air independent propulsion (a technology that allows submarines to stay under water for a longer period than normal submarines) swung the entire Indian Navy into action.
“From the location near Karachi from where it vanished, it could reach Gujarat coast in three days and Mumbai in five days. It was seen as a major threat to the security of the country,” the sources said. Soon, the anti-submarine warfare specialist warships and aircraft were positioned to help hunt for the missing Pakistani submarine. “Extensive searches were carried out by the Indian Navy in areas where it could have gone in the given timeframe,” the sources said.
After 21 days of an extensive search, the Navy finally located the submarine on the western side of Pakistan. It was sent there for hiding, to ensure a covert capability in case of extension in hostilities in the aftermath of the Balakot airstrikes.
Sources said the Navy is maintaining complete surveillance of the Arabian Sea, especially Pakistani waters, and is aware of Pakistan’s naval activities in the area. ANI