Document Type


Publication Date

April 2019

Publication Title

The Round Table






India, surgical strikes, Uri, Pakistan, security, South Asia


Asian Studies | Defense and Security Studies | International Relations


In September 2016, militants who were allegedly backed by Pakistan attacked an Indian Army camp in Uri. The government in New Delhi was facing important regional elections. It faced intense public pressure to muster a military response. Such a response, however, ran the risk of triggering a nuclear exchange. Ten days after the Uri attack, India reported that it had carried out ‘surgical strikes’ on terrorist training camps in Pakistan-controlled territory. The paper examines this specific episode in India–Pakistan deterrence dynamics, focusing on the nomenclature ‘surgical strikes’. The paper argues that the choice of the term itself is new and worthy of investigation. Using qualitative content analysis of the official announcement of the operation, it identifies specific rhetorical moves by the Indian government that framed the response as a surgical strike. The paper also considers other statements in the media by high-ranking political and military leaders regarding the strikes, and the reception of these statements by the Indian audience, by Pakistan, and by the international community. The concluding section sounds a note of caution about future iterations of so-called surgical strikes. While the term ‘surgical strike’ can be useful in some circumstances, it produces destabilising outcomes in others.


This is an original manuscript/preprint of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The Round Table on April 3, 2019, available online: