The man behind India’s policy shift: NSA Ajit Doval

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The Army’s surgical strikes across the LoC on Thursday marked a shift from the policy of ‘strategic restraint’. But its first signs came on October 7, 2014, when national security adviser Ajit Doval summoned the BSF director general and asked him to respond to Pakistan’s cross-border firing with “full force” even on slightest provocation.

Doval had then bluntly told the BSF brass that they were free to “fire at will” on Pakistan Rangers and systematically destroy their infrastructure until ceasefire violations from the other side stopped. “For one bullet fired by them, you respond with two,” Doval said, a source privy to the developments said.

The NSA also asked BSF not to seek any flag meetings with the Pakistan Rangers or its army in such situations.

Doval’s “offensive defence” strategy paid off as Pakistan soon found itself waiving truce flags after Indian firing caused massive damage on its side. The aggressive approach, adopted by India for the first time after BJP came to office in May 2014, continued whenever Pakistani forces resorted to firing and shelling across the border.

Last October when Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) director general Major General Umar Farooq Burki was in Delhi for talks with the BSF, Pakistani forces had started heavy firing, and it went on for days. Doval and home minister Rajnath Singh then instructed BSF to give a “befitting reply”.

The BSF onslaught was such that Burki had to call up then BSF chief DK Pathak on the “hotline” and request that the firing be stopped as 26 Pakistani civilians had been killed, sources said.

The surgical strikes on NSCN(K) camps inside Myanmar last June following an ambush on the Army was also Doval’s brainchild.

India’s policy shift in the last two years has boosted the morale of the security forces while Islamabad has got a clear message that “it will bleed more” if it continues its proxy war against India. “What has changed is that political statements by India condemning Pakistan’s activities and regular aggression are not deciding how a jawan would react on the ground. BSF and army are now not sitting ducks when they are being fired upon. They have been told to fire at will if they are being fired at,” said an official.

On Thursday, after Indian Army commandos returned to their bases after the surgical strikes, Pakistani troops fired at BSF posts in Rajouri and Baramulla areas, sources said. “Our commandos returned safe. Probably out of frustration, Pakistani forces violated ceasefire, which was responded to accordingly,” an official said.

The BSF is presently on the highest “operational alert” from Jammu to Gujarat and commanding officers, deputies and other senior officers have been asked to patrol their respective border areas and respond to any firing with “higher intensity”. The BSF is also assisting the civil administration in Punjab and Jammu region in evacuating people from the bordering villages+ to the safety as Pakistan may indulge in cross-border firing out of frustration, said sources.

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