New Delhi: This writer has so far kept silent on questions raised regarding the cross-LoC surgical strikes and their intended and unintended domestic political fallouts. In the pressing interest of preserving political equilibrium and national order, it is perhaps time to break the silence.

This writer has not the slightest doubt that the surgical strikes were carried out as disclosed to the nation by the Indian DGMO, Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh, and that they were adequately severe for the designed purpose. Nothing is served by detailing the operations; that is best left to future military historians. If you trust the military to guard the frontiers so you sleep peacefully at night, you implicitly trust it when it says it carried out surgical strikes.

The surgical strikes involved the Prime Minister’s Office, the Union Defence Ministry, the services headquarters, the Union Defence Minister, the National Security Advisor, the three service chiefs, the Northern Army Command, and vast reconnaissance and aerospace elements. The civilian and military leaders mentioned and the staff of army formations and other units are men who enjoy exceptional personal and professional integrity. They would not manufacture surgical strikes. You cannot manufacture surgical strikes. India is an open society. You cannot hide a lie.

The most telling effect of the surgical strikes is the damaged civil-military relationship in Pakistan. The Dawn’s report of a fractious government-military meeting caused extraordinary ferment because it connected to the surgical strikes. The Pakistan army has mobilized to the eastern border because of the strikes. Real action begets panic response. Armies swiftly know what is fake and what is real. Those who have questioned the strikes either have no knowledge of military affairs or are dishonourable. The dishonourable have privileged low politics over national interest.

It dishonours the armed forces further to ask for proof. The Indian Army is a professional army with a glorious record of wars fought and won. An army that fakes operations does not win wars. The surgical strikes were a major operation. They were intentionally publicized by the government because they were major and carried a strategic warning to Pakistan. They were not a “token slap” on Pakistan’s wrist. The political meltdown in Pakistan is testimony to that. The government has taken the correct and wise decision not to release any so-called “proof” of the strikes. It would gravely compromise future operations. It would also deter foreign militaries from participating with Indian forces in covert operations. In previous wars, highly sensitive covert operations have been mounted. If details were to emerge of them, Indian national interest would be irreparably damaged. This writer is constrained from putting more details in the public domain. It is highly irresponsible of certain opposition parties, and especially the Congress, which has long been in power, to demand more intrusive briefings about the surgical strikes. An all-party meeting has been briefed and rather more redundantly today a parliamentary panel. That should suffice.

The Congress party has selective memory in such matters. The Manmohan Singh government refused to reveal the details of its safeguards agreement with the IAEA when civilian and military reactors were segregated to enable the Indo-US nuclear deal. It refused to reveal the draft details to its principal ally, the CPI-M, which walked out of the United Progressive Alliance. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was in the opposition, had no hope or chance of seeing the secret deal. It was the government’s call at the time and it took it. Everything in the nuclear and military domain is not for public and political consumption. The opposition must know where to draw the line on competitive politics.

That being said, this writer also completely opposes politicization of the surgical strikes from all sides. Although brilliant in his work, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar ran with his mouth on the strikes. The reference to “Hanuman’s army” was totally uncalled for. The Indian armed forces are modern, apolitical and religion-neutral. Officers and troops represent the best traditions and ethos of a just and democratic India. Equally, Rahul Gandhi’s “Khoon ki dalali” phrase is obnoxious and deplorable. It reveals him for what he is: An empty-headed scion that is unfit to hold office.

It is still not too late to pull back from politicizing the strikes on all sides. As the ruling party, the onus lies on the Bharatiya Janata Party to not employ the strikes in any manner for electoral purposes. The damage of politicizing military operations will outlast any small electoral gains to make. The Prime Minister has warned against chest-thumping. He must hold his party to this pledge. The opposition also needs to behave sensibly and responsibly. A storm has gathered over India. Till such time as the threat from Pakistan and China is neutralized, any celebration is premature. Politics should return to normal and the military should be permitted to execute its strategical and tactical tasks without political recriminations.

Anything less will militate against public opinion.

Editor’s Note: Mani Shankar Aiyer recently took a dig at Narendra Modi by extolling Jawaharlal Nehru as a “democrat” who allowed a full parliamentary discussion on the 1962 debacle. Modi doesn’t need this writer to defend him. But if Nehru was really a democrat with a sense of self, he would have resigned from office for losing the 1962 war. He sent India to a terrible defeat in 1962. Had he been in the West, he would have been promptly and ignominiously removed from office. Nehru lost large tracts of strategic territory in 1947-48 to Pakistan and in 1962 to China. We continue to pay the price for his blunders and disastrous wartime leadership. He lingered on after the second lost war for a further two more years till his death. That is scarcely an example of a democrat to set for the future.