ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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‘Surgical Strikes’ by India

Taking International Law Seriously

The type of surgical action undertaken by India across the Line of Control in October 2016 in response to the terror strikes carried out by groups operating from the territory of Pakistan is neither unprecedented nor unusual in the contemporary global scenario. However, these strikes require international legal justification and have to be viewed in the context of established norms of international law. India needs to institutionalise the architecture for factoring in international law for conducting external affairs.

The author acknowledges comments provided by the anonymous referee.

The public pronouncement on swift surgical strike by the Indian special forces against terror “launch pads”—as a sequel to the terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri sector on 29 September 2016—has heralded a new era of assertive Indian posture in the region. The said surgical strikes took place in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) that has been consistently claimed by India as its own territory, currently under belligerent occupation of Pakistan. In the wake of the forcible occupation of a sizeable part of his state by the raiders, sent with support of the new dominion of Pakistan, Maharaja Hari Singh chose to sign the Instrument of Accession1 to join the Indian dominion (created by the Indian Independence Act of 1947).

The international legal basis of surgical strikes in POK could be premised upon India’s title to the entire territory of erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, as reflected in the exercise of sovereign will of the Maharaja. Moreover, notwithstanding India taking up the issue of Pakistan’s occupation to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC),2 on 27 November 1956, the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir “solemnly resolved, in pursuance of accession of this State to India which took place on the 26 October 1947, to further define the existing relationship of the State with the Union of India as an integral part thereof.”3 In fact, the 1972 Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan also finally “resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations” even as the UNSC, after the last resolution 307 (1971), has remained silent on the issue. These subsequent developments have drastically changed the legal dynamics of the original issue taken to the UNSC.

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Updated On : 6th Feb, 2017
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