Did a TV anchor's "hurting" question to a Union minister in June 2015 lead to the surgical strikes against Pakistan-supported terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) in September 2016?
Manohar Parrikar, the then defence minister, has said so. In remarks to industrialists in Goa on Friday, he said his ministry began to plan surgical strikes against Pakistan sometime after the successful completion of a counter-insurgency operation against insurgents on the India-Myanmar border in June 2015, a full 15 months before Indian forces carried out raids across the LoC on the western frontier.
Parrikar also said his plans were substantially spurred by a "hurting" query by a TV anchor to minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore whether the Indian government had the "same courage and capability" to replicate the operation across the India-Pakistan border.
"One question (from the media) hurt me. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, an ex-Armyman, was on TV and he was explaining about all kinds of search operations. An anchor asked him would you have the courage and capability of doing the same on the western front," Parrikar said.
"After a successful surgical strike, this was another insult to me. I listened very intensely but decided to answer when the time came. The starting of the September 29 (2016) surgical strikes on the western border was 9th of June, 2015."
However, a review of Rajyavardhan Rathore's interviews during the period in question showed that no questions were asked that could be seen as insulting or challenging.
Records show that Rathore did not face any such 'hurting' question in the two TV interviews he gave on June 9 and 10. On June 9, NDTV's Nidhi Razdan asked Rathore if the government was contemplating extending cross-border anti-terror operations to other frontiers. She also asked if the operation on the Myanmar border is a message to Pakistan.
The following day, Rathore gave an interview to Arnab Goswami, then of Times Now, who in fact praised New Delhi's decision to go after the militants across the India-Myanmar border.
Neither of the two anchors asked Rathore if New Delhi has the "courage and capability" to carry out a Myanmar-style operation on the western front.
Parrikar's disclosure of how the surgical strikes were planned provoked a strong reaction from former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Twitter on Saturday.
"A news anchor's question could have provoked a wider conflict with Pakistan & we are supposed to feel safer with this sort of decision making?" the National Conference leader tweeted.
Other Twitter users slammed Parrikar for seemingly letting his ego influence him on critical issues. One of them posted, "Shows how our ministers value ego more than real purpose."
Another tweeted, "#SurgicalStrike was nothing to do with our Martyrs. It was done as journalist insulted Minister so @manoharparrikar planned to satisfy his EGO."
June 9, 2015 with NDTV 24/7
Nidhi Razdan: Is there a possibility at all that the government would look at the option of extending this (cross-border strikes) to other frontiers? Is this a message that you are sending to other countries like Pakistan?
Rathore: It is undoubtedly a message to all countries that harbour any (terror) intentions be it on the west or the specific country we went in now.
June 10, 2015, Times Now
Arnab Goswami: What about the men who target India from the Pakistani side?
Rathore: I think this is a message for any nation that harbours terror intentions against our country. Be it on our soil or our citizens anywhere in the world, they will be protected. And we will always be friendly with countries. But if required, we will carry out strikes. If required, we will strike at the heart of the enemy.
Arnab Goswami: There are training centres and there are terror launch pads in Pakistan. Are you saying that this should be a message for Pakistan?
Rathore: This is a message for everyone who needs to get this message. If they ask a question, we will give them a message.
Arnab Goswami: I'm talking specifically of Pakistan. Now that we have a political leadership that has given a go-ahead for hot pursuits, should the government of Pakistan get a message from the Myanmar hot pursuit?
Rathore: We have a very capable army. We needed a very capable leader. We have them both now. And if that satisfies you that I be very specific about my neighbours, then of course if Pakistan attempts such strikes into India, we will strike back at the time and place of our own choosing.