The Big Story: Punitive strikes

The Indian Army on Tuesday announced that it had carried out punitive assaults on the Line of Control to deal with the infiltration attempts supported by Pakistani firing. In an unusually public briefing, Major General Ashok Narula spoke to the press and said that the Army was attempting to dominate the line of control as part of its counter-terrorism efforts, especially ahead of the summer when it is easier for militants to cross the LoC. Narula even released a video which, he claimed, showed a Pakistani post beyond destroyed by Indian firing, proof of the Army’s ‘punitive assault’ approach.

The decision to make a public briefing is rather unusual, since the Army tends to either speak directly to the opposing army or respond in kind to any provocation. Although Narula didn’t mention it, the timing of the video – which the Army dates to May 10 – seems to suggest that it is in some measure retaliation for what the Indian government said was the mutilation of two soldiers by Pakistani troops earlier in May. Though the Army insists it is currently attempting to dominate the LoC ahead of the summer infilitration season, it is hard not to draw connections to the earlier fracas.

To that end, a public announcement can be quite useful. It sends the domestic message, within India, that the government is on the watch for efforts by Pakistan to infiltrate, especially in a summer that is likely to be tense in the Kashmir valley. But it also makes clear to the Pakistani Army that India is aware of how the summer is likely to go, and that New Delhi will be proactive in the way the narrative plays out at the very least. Coming so soon after India notched up a victory in the International Court of Justice on the Kulbhushan Jadhav case, this seems like another attempt to portray India as the country that proactively attempts to keep the peace.

That said, a tactic is no use without a larger strategy. India has managed to draw blood at the ICJ, and has given evidence of the punitive attacks at home, yet it is unclear how it plans to actually deal with Pakistan. Does New Delhi find it useful at this moment to talk to the civilian government in Islamabad? Just as its Kashmir policy remains uncertain – with the Army commending an officer involved in a human shield incident, even as the government claims it wants to earn the hearts and minds of the people – New Delhi’s Pakistan policy seems unclear.

To that extent, the Army is expected to do the hard task of keeping the peace even when New Delhi is unsure of what it wants beyond simply a firm hand. India would do well to chalk out a clearer policy in its political approach to Pakistan, as well as the Valley, instead of simply expecting the Army to do all of the talking.


  1. Ajit Ranade writes in the Hindu about how much of the economy the Goods and Services Tax will cover, and how much territory there still is to map out.
  2. Who can guarantee Major Gogoi’s human shield action won’t be repeated? asks Harinder Baweja in the Hindustan Times.
  3. New research by ‘Lancet’ shows India ranks 154 out of 195 countries in terms of access to healthcare, points out Manas Chakravarty in Mint.

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Rayan Naqash covers the Mr Kashmir bodybuilding pageant in the Valley.

“I thought, at least a t-shirt should fit me,” said Hammad Wadera, laughing. He was thinking of the time back in 2013 when he weighed a scrawny 54 kilos and his clothes sat loosely on him. Today, the muscle-bound Mr Kashmir has no sartorial complaints: t-shirts fit him snugly enough.

Wadera returned to India after graduating in international business administration from the State University of New York in 2011. College life, he said, left him with no time for gym. He started working out in an “average gym” in Srinagar in October 2012. Even then, the idea of competitive bodybuilding had not struck him.

That came to him as he watched a Mr Kashmir bodybuilding event in 2013. “I had a feeling to try it.” The 30-year-old competed in the event this year, and on May 15, was crowned Mr Kashmir by the Srinagar District Bodybuilding Association in the 80 kg category.