~ By Alok Bansal and Anjana Deepthi
In the early hours of 09 June 2015, when a group of soldiers from 21 Para Commandoes, a special force of the Indian Army carried out operations against terrorist camps along Myanmar border, it was a clear proclamation to the world that the terrorists and enemies of India could no longer hope to be safe, by just going across India’s borders. The operation, which was carried out with the cooperation of Myanmar Armed Forces, was a stupendous success. It eliminated around 50 insurgents at two different locations along Nagaland and Manipur border, without any injury to the security forces. The camps targeted, were Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) camp along Manipur border and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland- Khaplang (NSCN-K) camp along Nagaland border. This surgical operation was in response to the ambush on Indian Army in Chandel District of Manipur on 04 June 2015, where 18 soldiers of the 6th Dogra Regiment were killed and 11 others were injured. The United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW) a conglomerate of North Eastern insurgent groups led by NSCN-K had claimed responsibility for the attack on Indian Army.
By responding so soon and in an alien and densely forested environment, the special forces of the Indian Army have clearly shown the capability to carry out such swift and lethal operations. It was always known that the Indian Army had such a capability, but what this operation has clearly shown is that the new dispensation in India also had the political will to retaliate against any attacks on its troops, citizens and property. It clearly showed that the Government of India was not willing to remain silent against such attacks. The operation has hugely boosted the morale of Indian security forces and has shown to the global community that a new India has arrived on the horizon, which could not be taken lightly. It showed to the world that India is unwilling to be bullied by non-state actors and suffer the consequences of cross-border terrorism.
Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, aptly conveyed the message that, it was not a game of Kabaddi, where an opponent could feel safe, just because he had crossed the line. This was clearly a signal to India’s other neighbours, some of which have been harbouring terrorists and sponsoring cross-border attacks. The Minister also confirmed that the operation took place with the cooperation and coordination of Myanmar. Although, the attack was entirely carried out by the Indian Army, the government and the Army in Myanmar was kept in the loop. The attack has opened a new chapter in India’s counter insurgency operations and will ensure that the non-state actors, especially in India’s North East will think many times before launching an attack on Indian citizens or security forces. In the past the modus operandi of these terrorists was to carry out an attack and cross the border. Once across they felt secure and could relax and recuperate. However, they would no longer be able to do so and feel safe across the borders.
North East of India has for long been a neglected area and the infrastructure in the borders has been abysmal. This gives the locals in the border areas of most of the North East states a feeling that they are ignored and no interest is shown by any political party towards their development and upliftment. This provides many of these underground movements space to thrive and grow. The recent successful visit of the Prime Minister to Dhaka and establishment of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) transport connectivity, will transform this region and make it a hub of activity. This has frightened the insurgent groups, who realise that the development and growth of this region, through which Asian Highway and Railways will traverse to connect South Asia with South East Asia, will make them irrelevant. This has led to a sudden spurt in their activities.
The operation has also highlighted the efficiency of our intelligence agencies, whose good work is often not recognised due to the clandestine nature of their work. The immediate trigger for the operations was the intelligence reports that the rebels were planning many more attacks on Indian soil and a group of insurgents had also reached India through the porous borders to carry out these strikes.
Some people believe that such operations should not have been publicised, as these are primarily covert operations, but they seem to forget that this is a change. After decades of inactivity the government has decided to strike and this needed to be announced. And this could have only been done when Indian troops were operating in conjunction with a friendly country like Myanmar. In future, the modus operandi could be different, with an element of deniability thrown in. This operation has forced India’s enemies to sit up and take notice of Indian intent and capabilities. The resultant unease was clearly evident in resolutions being passed against India in state assemblies and parliament in Pakistan.
Alok Bansal is the Director of India Foundation; Anjana Deepthi is a Research Associate with India Foundation. The views expressed are their own.