Lt General Rajendra Nimborkar (Retd), who commanded the Jammu corps, says the Indian Army ruled out air power, didn’t risk live feed of operation

New Delhi: The Indian Army would have called off its surgical strike inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) if there was a chance that the para-commandos, inserted to attack militant launch pads, would have been detected.

The army also ruled out the use of airpower for the operations, a senior general who commanded the Jammu corps told The Print.

“Half of the battle was won when we infiltrated undetected. If we were detected or had there had been an iota of doubt of being seen, we would have had to abort the operation,” Lt General Rajendra Nimborkar (Retd) told ThePrint.

“The mission would have then become an unsuccessful attempt. But we entered undetected and that is when we knew that it now had absolute chances of success,” said Nimborkar, who headed the 16 (Nagrota) Corps then. Its area of responsibility was South of the Pir Panjal, mainly in Jammu.

There were three teams of the 4 Para Special Forces battalion in Nimborkar’s area of responsibility which slipped into PoK on the night of September 28-29, 2016.

There were four other teams of the 9 Para Special Forces that operated from the 15 (Valley) Corps area of responsibility north of the Pir Panjal.

At the time, the 15 Corps was commanded by Lt. General Satish Dua, now chief of the integrated defence staff to the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC).

Each team of the Special Forces comprised of 30-35 commandos.

The final plan was prepared by these two corps commanders in conjunction with their superior officer, Northern Army Commander Lt. General D.S. Hooda (retired).

‘Darkness an ally, great logistical support’

Nimborkar said that the operation was aided by darkness. “We went in at the darkest hour possible and came out when it was still dark.”

The teams had to glide through obstacles like minefields and a couple of villages across the LoC.

Nimborkar said the teams had great logistical support. Because the operation was planned as quick inside-and-out strikes, he said the commandos were not weighed down by the burden of carrying much food. So they were able to carry more firepower.

Contrary to comic strip descriptions of the surgical strikes, the Lt General told The Print that air power was not requisitioned but helicopters were on standby.

“The AVC (Army Aviation Corps) was on standby. We did not need much help as their equipment is war specific not suitable for this kind of operation,” Nimborkar said.

“The Indian Air Force, however, had no relevance to the operation,” Nimborkhar said when asked whether the Army crossed the LoC or was dropped aerially.

The Lt General also said that there was no live feed of the action — unlike the US’ Seals action that killed Osama bin Laden — from the commandos because that would have risked an interception.

“When you relay a live feed, you always risk getting intercepted. We did not relay the live feed but we did record the operation,” he said. “Such an operation needs to be secure. Lives are at stake. There was fear of being intercepted if we used a signal to provide a live feed”.

Nimborkar said that there was no need for an instant recce because the Indian Army has institutional memory of the territory that it keeps updating.

Asked if the surgical strikes were repeatable, the Lt General said it was a possibility if required.

“The methodology, however, will be changed. It can’t be similar as then there are chances of getting detected by the enemy as it would know the method we used earlier. We traditionally have a bank of experience that will come to the aid of our army when required in such operations,” the officer said.