India 'Surgical strike was to send across strong message': Lt. General D.S. Hooda
New Delhi : The cross-LoC surgical strike last year was carried out by Indian troops to send across a "strong message" to Pakistan, which could not have been conveyed through other means, former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Army's Northern Command Lt. General D.S. Hooda (retd) has said.
Hooda, who oversaw the September 2016 attack across the Line of Control in Pakistan as then head of the Northern Command, told news channel NDTV that they were also prepared for retaliation from Pakistan's side but it did not happen.
He said one soldier was injured in the operation, though it was not in firing from the Pakistan's side, but in a landmine explosion on the Indian side of the LoC. Hooda said a part of the soldier's leg was blown off.
Asked why the Indian Army chose to go across the LoC to destroy the terror launch pads instead of using air attack or any long-range attack weapon, Hooda said those attacks would not have sent across the same message.
"I think a strong message has to be sent sometimes. You can say you could have done it from air, from long-range artillery... I think a message had to be sent out, a strong message had to be sent out," Hooda told the news channel.
"After the June 2015 strike (by the Indian Army across the India-Myanmar border), a lot of statements had come from Pakistan -- from their Interior Minister as also their official spokesperson -- which said Pakistan is not Myanmar, and we will give a befitting reply if India resorts to any adventurism. Those were the kind of statements that were made.
"Once the surgical strike was carried out, they just went totally quiet. I think that was more of a moral victory," he said.
"The kind of message we wanted to send across, I don't think could have been done by strikes from afar."
Asked whether they anticipated any retaliation, Hooda said: "We had, and why not? It would be unprofessional to say there will be no retaliation, and that we shouldn't plan for it."
"We were prepared, we were ready. But, as I said, I think the Pakistanis were quite shell-shocked. The minute they said surgical strike did not happen, we knew that a response from their side will at best be very very limited," the retired Lt General said.
Asked whether the attacks took place on both sides of the Pir Panjal, Hooda said it was "across the Jammu region and across the Kashmir region. On both sides, there were multiple strikes".
Hooda said the most difficult aspect was planning the return of the troops, and multiple plans were made on how it could be done.
"...the key element was not casualty, but not leaving any man behind".
"Multiple plans were made in case there was a fighting extrication; how it would actually be carried out; what assets would be required for such a contingency; whether in terms of aerial assets or whether in terms of even sending some more people across to bring our people back. So that kind of planning had been put in process and we were conscious that there could be a fighting extrication," he said.
Asked if there was any contact between the Indian soldiers and the Pakistan Army, Hooda replied in the affirmative.
"Yes, there was. The Special Forces had gotten into places where they were confident they could cause maximum number of casualties. So they had to get fairly close to where the camps were and there were some Pakistani posts in close vicinity. So that also had to be catered to. So, yes, they did get into close combat," he said.
The retired Lt General said there was need to provide better equipment to the Special Forces soldiers.
"I think compared with anyone, (they are) the best in the world, our Special Forces people are very good. Having said that, if there is a shortfall, I think its in their equipment. That's something we need to take a hard look at -- give them little better equipment," he said.
A surgical strike was conducted by the Indian Army on September 28-29 night in 2016 on terror launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
The strike came following a terrorist attack at an Indian Army camp at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir, in which 19 soldiers were killed.
In June 2015, the Indian Army had carried out a surgical strike along the India-Myanmar border on the camps of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) militants, days after an ambush in which terrorists killed 18 Army men in Manipur.