Originally Published 2015-06-15 00:00:00 Published on Jun 15, 2015
One needs to be cautious in pronouncing that the recent Myanmar Operation by the Indian army is a new, all-purpose security and counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism doctrine for every eventuality, circumstance and geography. In the case of Pakistan and the Kashmir theatre, for example, things will not be as simple.
Myanmar operation strengthens Modi's no-nonsense reputation

There are those who have described the Indian Army's operations against cross-border insurgency groups hiding in villages in Myanmar as dramatic and new. There are others who have pointed out that such operations have been conducted before -- in Myanmar itself and famously in Bhutan, against the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and other militant groups in 2003. In a sense, both are right.

True, such operations have taken place earlier, but rarely has the speed of execution been so swift and the political will been so determined and cold-blooded. The recent operation took place barely a week after Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) or NSCN(K) and affiliated units ambushed and killed Indian soldiers in Manipur. The response, both a punitive as well as pre-emptive strike after information had been received of further attacks, was quick. No doubt it will send a message.

The army and intelligence agencies can provide the inputs and menu of options, but in the end such operations require a political call. The risk lies substantially with the political leadership. If the operation had gone wrong, if Indian troops had suffered extraordinary casualties or if a diplomatic incident had occurred, it was for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to carry the can.

While not comparable in logistical scale, two American special ops come to mind. The first was the 1980 rescue mission mounted by Special Forces attempting to evacuate diplomats being held hostage at the United States embassy in Teheran. It went horribly wrong, with a helicopter crash resulting in the death of American troops. This fiasco contributed to President Jimmy Carter's defeat later that year, as he sought re-election. A quarter-century on, President Barack Obama put his political credibility at stake when he approved the raid on Osama Bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad. Fortunately for him, it was successful.

To be fair, the Indian ops in the border regions of Myanmar were that much easier. A degree of comfort and military cooperation with the generals and the politicians in Myanmar has been achieved over the past 15 odd years, since Jaswant Singh, as foreign minister, flew to Myanmar for a breakthrough visit in 2001. This was built on in the UPA decade, and further consolidated by the Narendra Modi government in the past year.

Having said that, the decision to move in and move so decisively was ultimately that of the prime minister. The fact that the mission achieved its goals will strengthen Modi's no-nonsense reputation. Seen alongside the tough - and in purely military terms even disproportionate - response to Pakistani incursions in the summer of 2014, it will reinforce the message that if and when challenged, Modi's government will do its utmost to impose costs on the challenger.

Yet, one needs to be cautious in pronouncing that this is a new, all-purpose security and counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism doctrine for every eventuality, circumstance and geography. In the case of Pakistan and the Kashmir theatre, for example, things will not be as simple. Indian security forces have occasionally crossed the Line of Control (LoC) for short, daring missions to neutralise a target or pursue a hardened foe. A spell of such moves took place during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, for instance, and was monitored by the Prime Minister's Office. There have probably been other such moments, but understandably they have remained below the radar.

In the case of hitting militants or terror units across the LoC, Indian forces will not be assured of support or even neutrality from Pakistani authorities. That aside, even if some camps or militant facilities exist close to the LoC, in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, they may have only transient, tactical value. The strategic locations that truly threaten India are far deeper in Pakistani territory, in the heartland and the urban centres of Punjab.

An assault on these is entirely different from an assault on hamlets in border regions. It will require the meticulous creation and nurturing of assets inside Pakistan that may well be on National Security Adviser Ajit Doval's long-term agenda but will take years to do.

The biggest plus from the Myanmar operation will be the boost it has given the Indian army and intelligence agencies. A big and difficult mission, involving immaculate matching of actionable intelligence and precise delivery, has been accomplished. The political leadership has given the army the necessary cover to push ahead. This is the way of confident nations.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

Courtesy: www.ndtv.com

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