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Surgical strikes: Pakistan now plans to take Indian scribes to 'targeted' sites

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 6 October 2016, 10:39 IST

Days after taking foreign journalists on a guided tour of villages along the LoC where the Indian army reportedly carried out surgical strikes last week, Pakistan may up the ante by taking Indian journalists to these areas.

Pakistan embassy officials in Delhi confirmed to Catch that such a plan was in the works. The guided tour of foreign journalists by the Pakistani military had led to reports questioning the Indian government's version of the events.

Pakistan has maintained that the "surgical strike" was no more than routine "cross border firing", in which two of its soldiers were killed.

Also Read: Surgical strikes: Truth the casualty as India, Pakistan make competing claims

Any offer of a tour to Indian journalists by Pakistan may complicate things for the Narendra Modi regime, which is debating whether releasing footage of the operation would settle the dust.

While the security establishment is reportedly considering releasing at least part of the footage, the diplomatic establishment is against the idea. There are concerns that releasing the footage could actually lead to more questions than it would answer, hence more confusion about the operation. Already, reports in the domestic and the international press - the former mostly supporting the Indian government's claims and the latter raising questions - have muddied the waters.

Sources told Catch that discussions were going on within the government on whether the footage of the strikes, which was reportedly captured by cameras mounted on the helmets of the Para commandos as well as a drone, should be released to satisfy those questioning the veracity of the operation. The home ministry has claimed it has already received the footage from the army.

Also Read: Surgical strikes: India calls Pakistan's strategic bluff. How will the Sharifs respond?

Those opposed to releasing the footage, the sources said, are arguing that it could further complicate the matters for the government. For one, since the operation were carried out at night, it will be difficult to convince the sceptics about the authenticity of the likely grainy video footage or the number of casualties. Also, since the terrain on both sides of the LoC is quite similar, questions could be raised about whether the action actually took place across the border.

Moreover, once the footage is out, it could find its way to various forensic labs in India and abroad, which would try to dissect it and spice it with their own findings. It could also end up in the labs of foreign intelligence agencies, to the embarrassment of the Indian security establishment. No country would like the details of its strategic operations to be studied by foreign sleuths as this could potentially compromise future operations.

Until now, none of the foreign governments have cast any doubt on the operation even as many have supported India's right to respond to terror. Several military experts, too, have argued against releasing the footage.

Some analysts have also argued that releasing the footage could lead to further escalation since it would put the Nawaz Sharif government and the Pakistan Army under pressure to retaliate. For now, they are denying the strikes ever happened and, hence, there is no need for a response.

So, all aspects considered, releasing the footage of the operation may not serve much purpose. Yet, not doing so could give more ammunition to the doubters. It's a dilemma that the Modi government would do well to resolve soon, one way or the other.

Also Read: Why Pakistan may be compelled to retaliate

First published: 6 October 2016, 10:39 IST