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'Number' in India's strike on terror camps in Pakistan



Within a fortnight, of a terror attack in India which killed 40 jawans (on 14th Feb) that had supposed links with terror organizations that operate from Pakistani territory; Indian jets flew in. My previous post was curt and small: we must act on terror outfits and those who support it. Reporters, taxi-drivers, faculty, maids, security guards, children were all on a positive high note. The question I was wondering is what would be a "good" / "acceptable" / "positive" number of casualties that these people wanted to hear. The number of deaths for our soldiers from the last terror attack was known: 40. Note though that the average number of deaths in India from terror is around 350 each year according to wikipedia.

Just after the terror attack on 14th feb, some politicians stated that we should kill 80 if they had killed 40 with a magnification of 2x. After today's attack, the ballpark number for the number of casualties in the bombed training camp in Pakistan is around 300 with a magnification of 7x.  Most Indians were happy and perhaps a much-needed response for decades of seeing terrorists attack Indians.  So, apart from the heroic acts of the pilots and the bold political step; an academic question was is this number of 300 a "good" response to match the death toll? Perhaps it was as most people were highlighting this number. Much later in the day, one journalist on a top news channel said that whether the number is 200 or 300; that was not so important. But, wait; it is !

Numbers are fundamental to how we judge. If the casualties would be less than 40 surely people would not have been very happy unless that would encompass a big name - like a top internationally wanted terrorist (something akin to USA bombing Pakistan to eliminate Osama Bin Laden). [Note that we are accepting these as facts without guessing anything about its credibility]. So, the number was part of the valuation for the action - 300 seemed really good and perhaps anything above 80 would sound acceptable. Then, maybe 40 would be positive. This is very similar to how we compare gains and losses from a reference point. Because 14th Feb attack was ripe in our heads, the reference was 40 and not 300+ - an average number of deaths India has been suffering for years due to terror. Now even after I have reminded you of 350+, still the ballpark of 300 seemed acceptable and satisfactory.

Long life the Indian Airforce, Army and Navy [no preference ordering intended!]

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