Past operations were covert, not surgical strikes: Defence Minister

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Maintaining that no surgical strikes were conducted in the past and the credit for the September 29 strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir should go to the Indian Army and citizens of the country, Defence Minster Manohar Parrikar Wednesday said the next response need not be a surgical strike since “unpredictability” keeps the enemy guessing. He said the strikes were the result of a decision taken by the government of the day and it should be “cheered” for that.

“We need surgical strikes but our next response need not be by way of a surgical strike. There should be unpredictability in response. Otherwise, the enemy can study your pattern and prepare its strategy,” Parrikar said at an event in Mumbai.

Referring to Opposition criticism that the BJP was trying to take credit for the strikes, the Defence Minister said: “The credit for the surgical strikes go to the Army and 127 crore Indian citizens. We don’t take credit for the surgical strikes. However, it is the government that takes decisions and such a government should be cheered.”

Describing the current situation “better than 2013”, Parrikar credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for securing the borders. “I should say that the national borders are much more secure under the leadership of the Prime Minister.”

“Prime Minister Modi tried to patch up with Pakistan. He extended a hand of friendship but it was construed by many as a weakness of this government. What we did on September 29 was tell our adversaries that we are not weak,” he said.

Rejecting claims of surgical strikes carried out under previous governments, Parrikar said: “I have been holding this portfolio for two years now. To my knowledge, there were no surgical strikes in the past. Those actions can at best be called covert operations where action was taken first and the government informed later. But the September 29 strikes were a result of a government decision.”

On the strikes across the Line of Control, Parrikar said he did not sleep for three nights ahead of the operations. “During the operations, I kept my mobile phone away, just to ensure that if it is compromised, nobody eavesdrops on important conversations. I mostly switch off my phone during important meetings but one can even bug the battery of your phone and listen to your conversations.”

Asked about his biggest challenge, Parrikar said it was dealing with scams of the past. On the procurement policy and the limited cartel of supplies it offers, Parrikar said: “There are 18 major companies that supply defence equipment. If we add their cross-holding companies, then this number will rise to 40. If one cross-subsidiary is embroiled in some scam and if we keep banning all of them, then we won’t have a supplier to go to.”

On self-reliance in Defence, Parrikar said it is an imaginary goal. “In small items, we could. But for big equipment, an overall system is developed through supplies from various countries. But in the process, even if we become self-reliant 75 per cent, it is a good achievement,” he said.

Asked if the Defence budget was less than what was needed, he said: “I don’t think money will be a constraint for procuring anything. But I am not in favour of wasteful expenditure. For the first time, we have prepared a graph that projects requirements until 2027.”

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