Can India Carry Out Surgical Strikes Against Pakistan? – OpEd


The American illegal unilateral strikes in Abbottabad had given chance to the Indian leaders to play their gruesome games against Pakistan. Soon after the Abbottabad incident Indian Army Chief General VK Singh claimed that Indian military is capable enough to carry out US-like operation that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He said “We have the capability…..If situation arises; all the three wings (army, navy and air force) are competent in carrying out such an operation”. Pakistan’s response was timely and adequate. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani warned against any misadventure, saying it would invite a catastrophic response.

India has always claimed that Pakistan is running about 42 terror camps in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Indian army’s Major General Ravi Thodge, General-officer-commanding of the counter-insurgency Kilo Force in the Indian Held Kashmir said that “Guerrilla training camps are still active across the Line of Control (LOC) in the Pakistan-administered part of Jammu and Kashmir”. Such allegations are based on false notions. Hundreds of insurgency movements are going on in India, according to different estimates Maoists control forty per cent of the Indian territory and the insurgents in the border states have influence in another ten per cent; but India had been failed to surmount those insurgencies. India must put its own house in order instead of blaming and accusing Pakistan.

Few questions arise in mind; whether India possesses capability to carry out such operations in Pakistan or not? What will be Pakistan’s response, will it remain idle to such attacks? Will these strikes lead to escalation of conflict? And how strategic stability in South Asia will unfold?

As far as Indian military’s capability is concern, it is very limited. India does not possess such Stealth helicopters which can evade Pakistani Radars. Other important factor is of taking risk to send Special Forces inside enemy territory. If Indian commandos are captured or killed by the Pakistani forces, then it would be embarrassing for the Indian military and Government. It would be a difficult choice to make. Another hurdle which India might be facing is the lack of human intelligence on ground, which America already had in Pakistan. America and Pakistan are on friendly terms and the American military and air force have permission and mutual understanding to operate in Pakistani territory and air space, but as far India is concerned it does not enjoy such leverage. So it would be difficult for the Indian military to carry out such strikes inside Pakistan.

In addition to that according to Lt Gen (retd) H.S Panag, who commanded the Indian army’s Northern Command in J&K, “There are 10 Special Forces battalions apart from NSG and there is also a Special Frontier Force, but there is no Special Forces command. Moreover, our training and equipment are 50% that of US special forces and we can strike only 50-70 km into Pakistan. Our SF is only used for tactical purposes during war, never strategically for special operations.” It is obvious from this statement that Indian military is constrained by technological impediment to carry out such sensitive operations.

According to Former Research and Analysis Wing Chief A. S. Dulat, India’s intelligence capabilities are limited. He said “We must accept we are no match for the CIA to undertake such an operation.” The MH-60 Blackhawk that the US crashed in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound was modified by the Joint Special Forces Command’s technology division to be a stealth chopper. Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, Director of Army think-tank Centre for Land Warfare Studies, said that “We virtually have the same capability as the US SEALs,’ he said Indian army itself has over half-a-dozen special forces battalions trained to carry out such attacks on strategic targets. But What India lacks is the technological advantage that the Americans enjoy in the form of stealth helicopters, electronic and aerial surveillance through their drones and spy satellites, apart from their air defence counter-measures.

Indian Military currently lack such capability but it is a huge economy and it can afford this helicopter which is worth of 60 million USD. Such amount is not an issue for India military. If India can get access to global nuclear energy market, it can easily get access to MH-60 stealth helicopters. India has its air base in Ayni, Tajikistan which could be used for such operations in AJK or in other parts of Pakistan. It is imperative for Pakistan army to revisit its strategic calculations and revamp its security structure against any eventuality from eastern or western border.

The Indian Air Force is developing at rapid pace; it has the strategic lift capability for long distance operations. It has recently acquired American aircraft C-130Js for its special forces. India has already launched Cartosat-II satellite that can be put to military use, while the armed forces will have their dedicated satellites soon beginning next year. All these capabilities are essential for any Abbottabad like covert operation. It has improved its reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities in last five years and it is also working hard to overcome shortage in its military’s weapon and equipment.

In addition to that a massive multi billion dollar acquisition programme is underway, the Indian military plans to induct more than 1,000 indigenous and foreign helicopters for attack, transport and utility operations by the end of this decade. The choppers to be inducted into the Army, Navy and Air Force include around 450 light utility, 12 VVIP, over 200 attacks, 139 Mi-17 transport and 15 heavy-lift helicopters and over 50 multi-role helicopters for the Navy. Such a capability would give Indian military confidence to carry out heliborne operations inside Pakistan. Indian military has also been practicing heliborne operations in their military exercises from last seven years. It is necessary for Pakistan military to shore up its capabilities to meet such challenges in future. Pakistan military has to improve its human intelligence, air defence system, and Special Forces to meet such threats in future. It is essential for India to abstain from any such act which might lead to destruction and instability of both countries. Both should work together for the strategic stability of south Asia, only then we can attain long term peace and stability in Pakistan and India.

Originally published in weekly pulse magazine, also available at

Masood-Ur-Rehman Khattak

Mr. Masood-Ur-Rehman Khattak is working at the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) Islamabad as Research Fellow. He did his M.Phil in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad. His major research areas are Nuclear Deterrence in South Asia, Terrorism, Non-Proliferation issues, FATA, Afghanistan and Regional Security issues. Mr. Khattak is author of a book, US War on Terrorism: Implications for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has been published by German Publishers, Lap Lambert Academic Publishing on 31st August, 2010. Mr. Khattak has also written a Research Paper on “Indian Military’s Cold Start Doctrine: Capabilities, Limitations and Possible Response from Pakistan” - 2011, published by SASSI. He has organised/presented in scores of international conferences/workshops. Email: [email protected]

8 thoughts on “Can India Carry Out Surgical Strikes Against Pakistan? – OpEd

  • May 31, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Indian army is deeply concerned with the terrorist camp in the POK, according to me India has enough energy to take over these camps since they are very close to the Indian border. India has acquired special weapon delivering system like BrahMos missile,which is worlds fastest cruise missile..also India is going to acquire its air launched version with Su30mki,which will give them a fine edge, also we can’t forget the para dropping mission conducted by them during war…since PoK is not a far distance, with the help of satellite technology, India has significant power to take over terrorist camps..and they can also get positive response from global society in the name of war on terrorism..

  • May 31, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    The author’s logic is that Pakistan must continue to encourage terrorist-organizations, and to invest in military capability build-up to thwart any hypothetical surgical strikes by India within Pakistani territory against sate-sponsored terrorist organizations.
    He must understand that the political leadership in India in deference to US pressure and assurance has dithered in taking military action all these years. However, a stage has come where any more dithering will cost them dear politically.
    So his assessment that state-sponshorship of India-centric terrorist orgnizations is required may result in disastrous consequences in future.
    India will be forced to call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff. In the event that they opt for a first nuclear strike, they must be ready for a massive nuclear retaliation and judge for themselves whether state-sponsored terrorism is worth the risk of a totally destroyed Pakistan.

  • May 31, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    The fish will fry itself in her own oil. India should just vigilantly look after its own internal security concerns with a huge mixed population. Pakistan non state actors/ISI think that the large Muslim population in India gives them a leverage to exploit. The mentality of the
    larger Indian Muslim population is completely different than the Muslims in Pakistan. Even the larger section of Muslims in Kashmir valley are different but they (LeT and Jaish) manage to misguide through their Islamist traitors.
    God bless

  • May 31, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Pakistanis are misinformed by few in media, im sorry…india doesnt have 40 plus 10 percent insurgent land. im sorry but its not good to underestimate enemy and give false hope to own people, its betrayal.. i call an ace an ace. india have barely 5 percent land suffering from Maoist insurgencies and within that only 2-3 percent are separatist issues. my pakistani brothers dont get misinformed wit authors like a pakistani born in uk and travelled the length and breadth of india. please dont depend on inside source cos it is misleading, do independent research.

  • June 1, 2011 at 6:17 am

    @Ah wa re Ah, So you traveled the latitude and the longitude of India! And you met the maoist
    to what ethnic group do they belong,what part of the forest region or hilly region did you come across them wearing their red caps? Come and give a lecture to our rulers at SAASI, If you have the courage to fly over as you do not
    need a visa being a Pakistani?

  • June 5, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Why this war-mongering between India and Pakistan .Both were one nation at one time. They have so much in common. Each time they went to war , both were hurt. The economic cost of war posturing by both sides ,has adversely affected them and continue to bring about suspicion and heartburn! In war, both could destroy themselves .The politicians and their
    people know it . Their future lies not in preparing for war, but in sincerely entering initially into a
    no-war pact with each other under any circumstances, for all time. J & K and militancy
    are two contentious issues. They could solve this
    if both parties are fair and just . Peace between
    these nations will bring in dividends not only to themselves , but to the entire South Asian region !!! At a fraction of the cost of war !

  • June 5, 2011 at 9:42 am

    War posturing between India and Pakistan will only
    invite nosy-parkers to fish in troubled waters !!!
    The world knows who they are .Why fall for the trap.Even now , it isn`t too late to call off the bluff !

  • July 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Oh man, I have never seen anyone take our generals, especially VK Singh, so seriously.


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