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NEW DELHI: Israel may be too small a country for the formidable Indian army to emulate in strategy or military philosophy, but in the mind of the Hindu nationalist leadership in Delhi the Jewish state has been the cynosure of invincibility, a model state. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi left no doubt on Tuesday that the widely advertised but equally disputed surgical strikes in Azad Jammu and Kashmir were modelled on Israeli military sinews.

The world took note of the army’s capability after last month’s “surgical strikes” on militant bases in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Modi said, comparing the Indian military offensive to covert operations by the Israeli forces.

Speaking at a rally in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi, Modi paid his respects to serving and retired soldiers, referring to the state as “Veer Bhumi” (land of the brave).

“Our army’s valour is being discussed across the country these days. We used to hear earlier that Israel has done this. The nation has seen that Indian army is no less than anybody,” he was quoted by The Hindustan Times as saying.

Israel’s military and secret service are considered to be among the best in the world and covert operations against militants in foreign territory — especially Palestine — are among their specialisations, the paper noted.

On Monday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said at a public meeting that he came from Goa, which is not known for its martial race nor was Gujarat famous for that. Therefore, the capability to order the strikes must have come from the training at Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, he concluded.

The strikes claimed by India were seen as retaliation for a deadly militant attack on an army base in Kashmir’s Uri that left 19 soldiers dead last month.

India has blamed Pakistan-based extremists for the attack — a charge Islamabad denies — and bilateral relations have nosedived since.

The strikes have also triggered a political debate back home with the opposition blaming the ruling BJP of trying to gain electoral mileage out of the operation after posters congratulating Modi on the strikes showed up in several poll-bound states such as Uttar Pradesh.

Published in Dawn October 19th, 2016