A series of deceptions were at the core of the plan to conduct stealth military strikes across the Line of Control. This included aggressive diplomatic moves to isolate Pakistan and a military configuration that suggested air strikes as the preferred mode of action.
Top government officials told ET on the condition of anonymity that the operation by special forces personnel on September 29 was preceded by moves such as India’s refusal to take part in the Saarc Summit and threats to revisit the Indus Waters Treaty that conveyed diplomatic isolation as New Delhi’s principal strategy.
On the military front, Pakistani forces may have got the impression that India was preparing for aerial strikes, possibly from within the Indian side of LoC. A flurry of military movements in Jammu and Kashmir and the sudden resumption of a major air force exercise were aimed at confirming the impression that aerial action was imminent, officials said.
The Western Air Command, which had concluded its annual ‘Exercise Talon’ just before the September 18 attack in Uri, resumed the exercise with intensive fighter jet missions and readiness patrols all along the border. The resumption of the exercise came on September 26, two days before the land-based surgical strikes were undertaken.
The Indian move was met with renewed activity by Pakistan’s air force that saw flight restrictions over Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and stretching the High Mark 2016 exercise that was in the buildup stage. The ‘final straw’, officials said, was the movement of troops in J&K that suggested India was preparing for retaliatory air action from Pakistan.
The army is believed to have moved an air defence brigade tasked to protect static formations such as headquarters and other highvalue assets — to the Kashmir Valley days before the September 29 strikes.
With attention sufficiently diverted, Indian special forces, who had been training for the mission for over a week, slipped into POK undetected, marked out their targets and let out devastating fire on terror launch pads.
The surprise, officials said, was so complete that the teams returned safely after the synchronised raids without even coming under fire from Pakistani forces.