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Surgical Strikes were Politicized and Over-hyped, says Retired Indian Army General Hooda

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Retired Lieutenant General DS Hooda, who was the Northern Army Commander in September 2016 when Indian troops carried out “surgical strikes” on terror launch pads across the Line of Control, on Friday said the strikes were over-hyped, reported ANI.

On September 29, 2016, the Indian Army claimed to have carried out “surgical strikes on terror launchpads” across the Line of Control to neutralise alleged infiltrators the previous night. The strikes followed an attack on an Army base Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri, in which 17 Indian soldiers were killed.

Hooda was moderating a discussion on “Role of Cross-Border Operations and Surgical Strikes” at the Military Literature Festival in Chandigarh. “Did the overhype help? I say, completely no,” The Indian Express quoted him as saying. “If you start having political resonance in military operations, it is not good. There was too much political banter, on both sides, and when military operations get politicised, that is not good.”

Hooda told ANI that the strikes were important and that the Army “had to do it”. “Now how much should it have been politicised, whether it was right or wrong is something that should be asked to the politicians,” he said.

Hooda said there were accusations that the surgical strikes had been politicised and that there was an “attempt to keep a purely military operation in the political domain by selective leaks of videos, photographs etc”.

Responding to a question from the audience, Hooda said in hindsight, it would have been better if the surgical strikes were carried out secretly, reported Hindustan Times. “The aim of any such offensive had to be not only tactical but strategic too, which substantially hampers enemy morale,” he said.

Hooda also said the aim of the surgical strikes could not have been achieved through artillery fire. “We had had massive artillery duels but it was not helping,” he said, adding that the planning for the strikes had been made in advance. “Should it have been publicised? There was no option,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “Too many questions were being asked. The media and our own Army soldiers were asking, ‘What are we doing about so many deaths of soldiers?’”

When asked about Hooda’s remarks, Army chief Bipin Rawat told ANI: “These are an individual person’s perceptions so let’s not comment on them. He [Hooda] was one of the main persons involved in conduct of these operations so I respect his words very much.”

Congress President Rahul Gandhi criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi after Hooda’s remarks. In a tweet, he said “Mr 36” – a reference to Modi – had “absolutely no shame in using our military as a personal asset”. “Spoken like a true soldier General. India is so proud of you,” Gandhi wrote. “[Modi] used the surgical strikes for political capital and the Rafale deal to increase Anil Ambani’s real capital by [Rs30,000 crore].”

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