The top officer of the Indian Army's Northern Command on Monday said that the first surgical strike was carried out by India in September 2016, in the latest comment on a protracted political battle between the BJP-led government at the centre and the opposition over authorising targeted counterattacks across the Line of Control.
Referring to a recent reply by the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) to a Right to Information (RTI) query, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh said that the first surgical strike by the armed forces took place in September 2016, to avenge the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Uri, in which 19 soldiers were killed.
"A few days ago, DGMO said in a reply to an RTI that the first surgical strike happened in September 2016. I don't want to go into what political parties say, they will be given an answer by the government. What I have told you is a statement of fact," Lt General Singh said at a news conference, according to news agency ANI.
Lt Gen Singh's response was to a question about Congress's claims of conducting six surgical strikes during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule in a challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP's statement of being the first government to clear such a military action.
Congress leader Rajiv Shukla had also said that two surgical strikes were carried out when BJP's stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister - one in January, 2000 and another in September, 2003.
Lashing out at the claims, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mocked the Congress at an election rally on May 3, saying the party that questioned the surgical strikes is now saying "me too, me too." PM Modi also said bitingly that "it is no video game" and accused the Congress of carrying out surgical strikes only on paper.
However, a day later, the commander who oversaw the 2016 surgical strikes and was tasked by the Congress to draft its national security manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, backed the party saying strikes did take place before 2016. Lieutenant General (Retd) DS Hooda, the former chief of the Northern Command, also said that the armed forces will not benefit from the politicisation of military operations.
The 2016 surgical strikes, the subject of a Bollywood blockbuster released earlier this year, refer to the Indian Army's raids on seven terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) in retaliation to the Uri attack.
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