In an embarrassment for Congress, Northern Army commander Lt Gen Ranbir Singh on Monday confirmed that the first surgical strike was carried out by India in September 2016. He quoted an RTI reply by Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and the Indian Army. He also termed the IAF's Balakot airstrike on a terrorist camp in Pakistan as a "major achievement".
"The action by the Indian Air Force on the February 26 for carrying out air strikes on Balakot terrorist infrastructure was indeed laudable," Lt Gen Singh told reporters.
"It was a major achievement wherein our aircrafts went deep into enemy territory and struck terror launchpads and camps," he added.
Lt Gen Singh said the Pakistanis carried out their air operations very close to the Line of Control the following day but were given a "befitting reply".
"I wish to assure you, the Indian armed forces have the capability, the resolve and operational plans absolutely geared up to take on any challenge from Pakistan whenever it arises," he added.
Asked if India conducted any surgical strike before September 2016, Lt Gen Singh replied in the negative.
Citing an RTI reply by Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Indian Army, Singh said, "A few days ago DGMO said in a reply to an RTI that the first surgical strike happened in Sep 2016, I don't want to go into what political parties say as they'll be given an answer by government. What I told you is a statement of fact."
Some Congress leaders including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claimed that several surgical strikes were conducted by army during the previous UPA rule.
"Multiple surgical strikes took place during our tenure, too. For us, military operations were meant for strategic deterrence and giving a befitting reply to anti-India forces than to be used for vote garnering exercises," Singh had said in an interview to a newspaper.
Congress leader Rajiv Shukla had told reporters at a briefing last week that six surgical strikes were conducted during the tenure of the Manmohan Singh government.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had questioned the claims and said that the Congress had a habit of lying.
Union Minister V K Singh, a former army chief, on Saturday denied knowledge of a surgical strike during his tenure and accused the Congress of lying about it.
In a tweet, he said, "Congress has a habit of lying. Will you please let me know which 'So-called Surgical Strike' are you attributing to my tenure as COAS (chief of army staff). Am sure you must have hired some Coupta to invent another story."
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