The Army had carried out "target specific, limited-calibre, counter-terrorist operations" across the LoC in the past too but this is for the first time the government has gone public about it, a Parliamentary panel was told by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on Tuesday, in remarks that appear to contradict the defence minister's claim.
The FS gave this information to the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs when he was specifically asked by MPs whether surgical strikes have been done in the past.
The meeting was attended by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and CPI (M) MP Mohammed Salim among others.
Sources said that the Foreign Secretary did not use the term "surgical strikes" when he informed the MPs about past operations.
"Professionally done, target-specific, limited calibre counter-terrorist operations" have been carried out across the LoC in the past too, but this is for the first time that the government has made it public," according to sources present in the meeting.
The top diplomat's comments assume significance in the context of claims by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's last week rejecting Congress's claims that surgical strikes were undertaken during the UPA government too.
He had asserted that it was the first time that surgical strikes had taken place in the aftermath of the Uri terror attack and what was undertaken previously were operations locally executed by commanders without involving the government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today likened the army's surgical strikes to Israel's operations and said the Indian forces have shown they are no less than anybody.
“The world is now talking about our Army. We used to hear about similar feats of the Israeli Army. But now everyone knows Indian Army is no less,” the Prime Minister said in a veiled reference to the surgical strikes conducted across the LoC while addressing a Parivartan Rally in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district.
The Congress has also claim that Army carried out several surgical strikes during UPA rule of 10 years but it was never publicised.
The claims, however, rejected by Parrikar who said that those operations were undertaken by border action teams at local level "without the knowledge" of the government.
“I have been Defence Minister for over 2 years and from whatever I've learnt, there was no surgical strike anytime earlier. What they are quoting are probably action taken by Border action teams, which is common practice across globe including Indian Army,” Parrikar had said.
During the meeting today, Jaishankar informed the MPs that while India has been engaging with Pakistan post the September 29 surgical strikes, but no "calendar" has so far been prepared regarding future engagement and its level with Islamabad, members said on condition of anonymity.
He said soon after the operations had ended, the Director General Military Operations of the Pakistan Army was informed about the strikes.
During the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Bipin Rawat also gave details of the strikes targeting terrorist launch pads across the LoC.