On the midnight of September 28, 2016, India broke the long-standing truce at the Line of Control (LoC) to avenge the September 18 terror attack on the Indian Army brigade headquarters at Uri, Jammu and Kashmir. In the Uri attack, the country lost 17 of its bravehearts.
Severn months earlier, in January, India took another blow from terrorists across the LoC as a heavily armed group attacked the Indian Air Force Base at Pathankot, killing 7 soldiers, including Keralite Lt Col Niranjan of the National Security Guards (NSG).
What followed was a historic operation by the Indian Army's Special Forces. As we remember the second anniversary of the surgical strike, let's have look at how the Army planned and executed the operation:
Following the Uri attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered probe. National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval assigned to identify the perpetrators of the attack and explore a way to strike back, including military action.
Intelligence agencies and army conducted the probe. GPS devices recovered from the terrorists showed that they came from Pakistan. They mapped the way the terrorists sneaked into the country.
Massive search ops conducted in J&K and neighbouring states.
Uri residents caught two men who helped army base attackers. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar handed over evidence to Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit.
On the same day, Pakistan denied any role in Uri attack, while its Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif raised Kashmir issue at the United Nations.
DGMO briefed the PM, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, NSA and Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag on LoC strike options. Northern Army Commander Lt General D S Hooda picked strike team from 1,3, & 4 para battalions.
PM met the defence minister and the NSA and approved surgical strike.
By then, the Army had began preparations. Army located targets across the border. National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) satellites monitored the targets. Intelligence agencies and the government worked 24x7 to execute the mission.
'We will neither forgive nor forget Uri,' said Prime Minister while addressing a rally in Kozhikode, Kerala.
NSA, Service chiefs, foreign secretary, intelligence chiefs, NTRO chief, DGMO convened a meeting and decided the strategy. Four key areas came under discussion at this meeting - surgical strike, contingency plans, brining back troops after the mission and information/escalation matrix.
Around 10pm, civilians near Punjab and J&K border villages evacuated. Heliborne strike team began moving in. Targets were in the range of 2 to 3 km from LoC. The team was dropped off at a safe distance from the targets. From there, they were sneaked into the target areas.
Around midnight, the strikes began at multiple targets. First, the perimeter guards eliminated by snipers. Forces mounted assault on terrorists, destroyed the vehicles and ammunitions. Live visuals of the operation streamed back to command centre, where PM, Defence Minister, NSA, DGMO, Intel Chiefs, NTRO chief and three service chiefs stationed.
According to Indian Army, seven terror launchpads were destroyed and 45 terrorists were killed in the attack. Strike happened at Bhimber, Hotspring, Kel and Lipa sectors on Pak's side of LoC.
Casualties: The team also had a plan for managing causalities. They were determined not to leave any man behind. The only casualty reported was of one commando, who injured in mine blast while returning to extraction point. He lost his leg in the incident. Everyone else safely returned to the base by Sept 29, 9am.
Ajit Doval and Operations chief met prime minister. Doval spoke to his US counterpart Susan Rice. Cabinet committee on security called at noon. Soon after the cabinet committee meeting DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh called his Pakistani counterpart to inform about the strikes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to former PM Manmohan Singh, while home minister briefed state chief ministers about the military action.
At 12.30pm: DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh met media, announcing that India had conducted surgical strikes across the border.
Soon after the announcement, then Congress president Sonia Gandhi came out backing the strike. She said the entire nation stand with the government in its actions to protect country's security.
Following the announcement...
BSF has asked all its units along the International Border (IB) in J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat to step up vigil. Border units have been asked to undertake special petrols and conduct ambushes. Civilian movement along the border restricted. Punjab asked to immediately evacuate people from border villages within 10kms of IB.
Why surgical strike?
"The cross-LoC surgical strike was carried out to send across a 'strong message' to Pakistan, which could not have been conveyed through other means," general officer commanding-in-chief of the army's Northern Command Lt General D S Hooda had said last year.
A year after the attack, Hooda, in a television interview, said this:
"I think a strong message has to be sent sometimes. You can say you could have done it from air, from long-range artillery... I think a message had to be sent out, a strong message had to be sent out.
"After the June 2015 strike (by the Indian Army across the India-Myanmar border), a lot of statements had come from Pakistan - from their interior minister as also their official spokesperson - which said Pakistan is not Myanmar, and we will give a befitting reply if India resorts to any adventurism. Those were the kind of statements that were made.
"Once the surgical strike was carried out, they just went totally quiet. I think that was more of a moral victory. The kind of message we wanted to send across, I don't think could have been done by strikes from afar.
"I think the Pakistanis were quite shell-shocked. The minute they said surgical strike did not happen, we knew that a response from their side will at best be very very limited."