upa did 3 surgical strikes but didn't show off : rahul gandhi

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Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday asserted that the Indian Army had conducted three surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was in power, but those operations were kept under the wraps at the force’s behest.

Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a public interaction at Udaipur in poll-bound Rajasthan, Gandhi accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of turning the targeted September 2016 operation into a “political asset” to garner votes during the Uttar Pradesh elections.

“Do you know that like Narendra Modi’s surgical strike, (former PM) Manmohan Singh did that three times? When the army came to Manmohan Singh and said we need to retaliate against Pakistan for what they’ve done, they also said we want it to be secret, for our own purposes,” Gandhi said.

Several senior serving and retired army officers Hindustan Times spoke to confirmed that cross-border operations had been carried out several times in PoK, but the surgical strike of September 2016 was different because the political leadership took ownership of the action and announced India’s muscular military response to the world. The operation was in retaliation for an attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri, Kashmir, the same month that claimed the lives of 19 soldiers. The suicide attackers had come from Pakistan.

A defence ministry spokesperson refused comments on Gandhi’s statement, saying the matter fell in the political domain.

The ruling BJP called Gandhi’s remarks an insult to the soldiers who died in Uri.

“I am not aware of the specifics he (Gandhi) is talking about. But yes, some cross-border operations were conducted in the past. The September 2016 strikes were different because the operation was on a much larger scale compared to the previous strikes and the Modi government acknowledged that we had gone across,” said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda, under whose watch the 2016 surgical strikes were conducted.

A former army chief, who did not want to be identified, said shallow cross-border raids have been conducted at the tactical level several times earlier, adding that these operations were planned and executed at the local level.

“The 2016 strikes stand out due to the depth we went to and the scale of the operations. And, of course, the big thing was that the government took ownership of the strikes. That never happened before,” he added.

The strikes were India’s first direct military response to the terror attack on an army base in Uri in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed. The suicide attackers had come from Pakistan.

This is not the first time the Congress has said that surgical strikes were conducted earlier too. In a statement issued on June 18, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala enumerated the strikes conducted by the army since 2000.

“We are proud that our forces have successfully conducted multiple ‘Surgical Strikes’ over last two decades, particularly post the year 2000 — 21st January, 2000 (Nadala Enclave, across the Neelam River), 18th September, 2003 (Baroh Sector, Poonch), 19th June, 2008 (Bhattal Sector, Poonch), 30th Aug-1st September, 2011 (Sharda Sector, across Neelam River Valley in Kel), 6th January, 2013 (Sawan Patra Checkpost), 27th-28th July, 2013 ( Nazapir Sector), 6th August, 2013 (Neelam Valley), 14th January, 2014, 28th-29th September, 2016 (DGMO’s statement),” he said in the statement.

BJP president Amit Shah hit out at Gandhi for his claim that the Modi government had turned the surgical strike into a political asset, calling it “an insult to the martyrs” of Uri.

“You people are happy that Modiji avenged the deaths of our soldiers in Uri, but this Rahul Baba was just telling people that he (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) did the surgical strikes to win Uttar Pradesh polls. Shame on you (Gandhi),” he said addressing an election rally in Jodhpur.

“You will not realise it Rahul baba what difference this surgical strike made. Every soldier of the country, whether he is from Rajasthan, Gujarat or Punjab or Kashmir, has a feeling that his government stands behind them,” he said.

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