The top Army leadership will opt for silence, the National Security Adviser is too much of political animal to offer remedial counsel, and little can be expected of a defence minister who directs military engineers to construct pedestrian over-bridges on a suburban railway, or collect the trash left behind by high-altitude trekkers. Yet senior and middle-level military officers will feel denigrated by Mr Narendra Modi’s claim of having approved details of the pre-emptive, cross-border, counter-terrorism mission popularly projected as a “ surgical strike ”.
For while most such actions do require political clearance, the role of the military leadership is undermined when the Prime Minister boasts that he had directed “come back before sunrise irrespective of the success or failure or the mission”.
That decision fell within the ambit of military professionals. Perhaps bereft of a nuanced appreciation of the military ethos, Mr Modi can be excused for being ignorant of the concept of a “fighting withdrawal” but surely there are enough experienced officials around to caution him against such shooting from the hip. Or are they too convinced that the man can do wrong? Gen Bipin Rawat and Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa may subscribe to that theory, they need to conduct a reality check down the line. Discipline and morale could be on the line and the army would be enfeebled if its top officers were seen as marching to the same political drumbeat as their counterparts in the CBI, ED, NIA and so on. A sycophantic military constitutes grave danger to democratic society.
Re-opening the political controversy over the veracity of the surgical strikes story would yield few positive results ~ like Rafale pricing they are “secret” (and the apex court has approved that denial of information to the tax payer) ~ but the Prime Minister’s claim on the duration of the strikes fuels the controversy over the politicisation of the operation that had caused tempers to rise at a recent seminar in Chandigarh. Only the present GOC-in-C of Northern Command (in the running for a fourth star) spoke positively about the BJP having gone to town over an operation that has made minimal difference to the ground situation the Valley. Politician’s thunder has little or no bearing on operational realities ~ for all the home minister’s bombast, AFSPA has just been further extended in Nagaland, the hopes of an accord have all but dissipated.
The Prime Minister might think he has brought a touch of Von Clausewitz, Liddel-Hart or JFR Jacob by telling the Special Forces to return before first light, which is actually standard operating procedure. That must serve as an insult to all those sporting gold braid. The khaki community will not be impressed, maybe the men who drill with lathis will deem that “strategy.”