When Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent army commandos across the border to conduct surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, it was with the message that they return safely "irrespective of the mission's success or failure".
Disclosing the details of the military operation for the first time to news agency ANI, PM Modi said the safety of the army personnel was paramount for him. "I told them to come back before sunrise, irrespective of the success or failure of the mission," he said, his voice breaking with emotion.
The strikes were carried out days after terrorists attacked an army camp in Kashmir's Uri, killing 20 soldiers.
PM Modi said the surgical strikes were planned because there was a "rage" building up within him as well as the Army in the aftermath of soldiers being burnt alive in the Uri attack. "I knew it was a big risk. I never care about any political risk to me. The biggest consideration for me was the safety of the soldiers who were willing to sacrifice their lives on our word," the Prime Minister said, adding that he monitored the risky operation through the night.
"The commandos for the operation were carefully chosen and trained. We arranged for all the equipment they needed. Still, I remained anxious through it all," the news agency quoted him as saying.
PM Modi said there was a time when the flow of information stopped for an hour. "My anxiety increased. That time was extremely difficult for me... Then came the information that two-three units have reached the safe zone, so don't worry. But I said I won't breathe easy till the last man returns."
The Prime Minister then went on to slam the opposition for "politicising" the strikes by refusing to believe it. "An Army officer apprised the nation of the operation. That information was given to Pakistan as well... But it was unfortunate for the country that some parties raised doubts over the surgical strikes," he said. "It was necessary for Pakistan to deny the strikes, to keep their morale intact. But Pakistan's line was being repeated here too. Politicisation started from that point."
PM Modi said that lauding the valour of soldiers was the duty of the government as well as citizens. "If we don't hail the valour of those who stake their lives for the country, who will? So praising the Army should not be considered as politicisation," he said.
However, the Prime Minister refused to say whether the objectives of the surgical strikes were achieved, considering that cross-LoC terror attacks haven't ceased. "It would be improper to discuss the matter in the public domain," he asserted. "But it would be a big mistake to think that Pakistan will start behaving after one fight. It will take a long time for Pakistan to start behaving."
(With inputs from ANI)