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5 Oct, 2016 15:48

Indian Army OKs release of Kashmir ‘surgical strike’ videos

Indian Army OKs release of Kashmir ‘surgical strike’ videos

India’s armed forces have given carte blanche to the government to use the video footage of alleged “surgical strikes” carried out in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, a report claims. It’s feared the measure could aggravate Indo-Pakistani tensions.

Speaking off the record, top army officers told the Economic Times (ET) that the army wants India to release footage to answer all those claiming that the September 29 pre-dawn strikes had never occurred. 

Some opposition politicians in India have also been asking for “proof” of the strikes.

Top government officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper that the decision on whether to release the strike footage or not “will depend on the larger call on likely Pakistani response.” The final decision rests with the Prime Minister’s Office.

The army has “ample evidence” to show the cross-border strikes proved to be “highly effective,” top army strategists told the newspaper, citing video footage and photographs, shot by ground troops and drones, that were deployed to monitor the operation, according to the ET.

“There is no doubt at all that the strikes inflicted heavy damage. Proof is available with the government that clearly shows our troops engaging the targets effectively,” a senior government official was quoted as saying.

India claims it carried out surgical strikes against Pakistani-based militants across the de facto border in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir – a claim which Islamabad denies, accusing India of firing across the border and killing two soldiers.

Referring to the alleged strikes, India’s Director General of Military Operations Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh said on September 29 that “some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along the line of control,” the Hindu reported

He added that the Indian “Army carried out surgical strikes” at “these launch pads.”

“The operations were focused to ensure that these terrorists do not succeed in endangering lives of citizens in our country,” Singh said, adding that “significant casualties have been caused to these terrorists and those who are trying to support them.”

Pakistan meanwhile stated that “there has been no surgical strike by India, instead there had been cross border fire initiated and conducted by India.” Calling Delhi’s statements a “fabrication,” it said that Indian troops fired across the de facto border known as the ‘Line of Control,’ killing two Pakistani soldiers and injuring nine others.

Earlier this week Indian generals reportedly called on the government to approve a sustained six-month campaign to destroy “terrorist infrastructure” on the Pakistani side of the de facto border.

“We have to look at a sustained campaign. The terror network is on the back foot, but to really achieve something, we have to look at a medium-term plan, a six-month campaign. A one-off event will not deter them,” a top Indian Army official was quoted by the Economic Times as telling the country’s government. 

Long-standing tensions between the two countries escalated last month, when an attack on an Indian Army base killed 18 soldiers. The assault prompted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to warn that the crime “would not go unpunished.”

Relations also soured over the summer, when India launched a crackdown on dissent in Kashmir following the killing of separatist leader Burhan Wani by security forces in July. Both Pakistan and India claim Kashmir in its entirety, but govern separate parts of the disputed area. The two sides have fought four wars since independence from British colonial rule in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.