Myan­mar raid – Go for cred­i­ble deter­rence

The Spe­cial Forces raids on two ter­ror­ist camps in My­na­mar are a good be­gin­ning at the tac­ti­cal level but we need to need to ur­gently ad­dress the strate­gic level.

SP's MAI - - MILITARY VIEWPOINT - — By Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd)

The Army con­voy am­bushed on June 4 in Chandel dis­trict of Ma­nipur was the worst suf­fered by the Army in past 33 years. 18 army per­son­nel were mar­tyred when the for­ward two ve­hi­cles were blasted by im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive di­vices (IEDs) and fired upon by RPG rock­ets and au­to­matic fire. The NSCN(K) and KYKL owned re­spon­si­bil­ity but there is much more in the back­drop; China-Pak­istan nexus fan­ning the North­east in­sur­gency and ISI-backed ji­hadi out­fits. In April 2015, nine mil­i­tant groups in­clud­ing the NSCN(K) and the ULFA fac­tion led by Paresh Baruah, came to­gether to form the United Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Front of WSEA (West South East Asia) in a meet­ing held at Taga in Sa­gaing, Myan­mar, un­der ac­tive tute­lage of Chi­nese in­tel­li­gence. Kha­p­lang, Chair­man NSCN, heads the new group­ing with ULFA’s Paresh Baruah, who has been shel­tered on Chi­nese soil past sev­eral months, play­ing a ma­jor role. China was be­hind the re­cent ab­ro­ga­tion of the 14-year-old ceasefire by NSCN(K) with In­dia. Other groups that are part of the new group­ing are the Kan­gleipak Com­mu­nist Party, Kan­glei Ya­wol Kunna Lup, Peo­ple’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Party of Kan­gleipak, Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, United Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Front and Na­tional Demo­cratic Front of Bodoland (Song­bi­jit fac­tion).

In re­cent years China has been sup­ply­ing arms to PLA of Ma­nipur and In­dian Maoists, and has cre­ated her dead­li­est proxy in the United Wa State Army (UWSA) head­quar­tered in Shan state of Myan­mar arm­ing them even with mis­sile fit­ted he­li­copters. Tim­ing of for­ma­tion of the United Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Front of WSEA and ab­ro­ga­tion of the 14-year-old ceasefire by NSCN(K) in March was a sig­nal pre­ced­ing Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s visit to China in May. There are also in­di­ca­tions of in­volve­ment of ISI-LeT spon­sored Is­lamic groups par­tic­u­larly the PULF (Peo­ple’s United Lib­er­a­tion Front) also in the Ma­nipur am­bush. At the same time, the in­volve­ment of the western arms mafia too can hardly be ruled out tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the Pu­ru­lia arms drop. In­dia’s ri­poste through swift sur­gi­cal strike at two camps in­side Myan­mar drew in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion.

The raid was con­ducted by Spe­cial Forces sup­ported by the IAF pur­suant to cred­i­ble and spe­cific in­tel­li­gence about fur­ther at­tacks that were be­ing planned on In­dian ter­ri­tory by the same groups that had un­der­taken the am­bush in Ma­nipur. The Army state­ment reads that sig­nif­i­cant ca­su­al­ties have been in­flicted on the ter­ror­ists. While no specifics were given in the Army state­ment, media re­ports quot­ing of­fi­cial sources talked of ter­ror­ists killed num­ber­ing rang­ing from 20 to 50. The Army also con­firmed they had been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Myan­mar author­i­ties in this re­gard, there is history of close co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two mil­i­taries and In­dian Army looks for­ward to work­ing with Myan­mar Mil­i­tary for com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism.

The raid on the ter­ror­ist camps across the bor­der in­di­cates re­solve of the Modi Gov­ern­ment in ef­fec­tively deal­ing with cross bor­der ter­ror­ism. It is the first time the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia has shown will­ing­ness to con­duct pre-emp­tive strikes to cur­tail op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties of in­sur­gent groups. Some 1,000 of 1,500 NSCN(K) cadres are re­port­edly based in Myan­mar. The ex­ist­ing in­sur­gent camps in Myan­mar num­ber 61 as per latest TV news. The borders are also used for smug­gling of arms and con­tra­band by the mil­i­tants. Un­con­ven­tional war­fare and proxy wars hav­ing proved their strate­gic im­por­tance over other forms of con­flict past decade, we must recog­nise that China and Pak­istan have joined hands and re­solved to desta­bilise In­dia through ter­ror­ism and fan­ning in­sur­gen­cies as proac­tively as pos­si­ble.

The China-ISI-Tal­iban-LeT nexus is tar­get­ing Afghanistan, Mal­dives, North In­dia and South In­dia, with lat­ter sit­ting on a dor­mant tin­der­box. North­east In­dia is a strate­gic ob­jec­tive for China; to an­nex Arunachal Pradesh and reach out to the In­dian Ocean. Our Spe­cial Forces raids on ter­ror­ist camps in Myan­mar no doubt have sent out salu­tary mes­sage on all fronts. But then within Myan­mar there are 61 such camps and next time, the ter­ror­ists or­gan­i­sa­tions will be on bet­ter look­out. Chi­nese and Pak­istani in­tel­li­gence may even sup­ply these out­fits with shoul­der-fired air de­fence mis­siles. As of morn­ing of June 10, fierce gun-fight had bro­ken out be­tween a com­bined team of un­der­ground out­fits and the Army along the bor­der in Ukhrul dis­trict dur­ing the mas­sive comb­ing op­er­a­tion though no ca­su­al­ties were re­ported.

The sur­veil­lance, com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­ter­cep­tion, IED/mine de­tec­tion and coun­ter­mea­sure ca­pa­bil­i­ties of units in the North­east must be en­hanced. The gov­ern­ment would do well to im­me­di­ately raise min­i­mum two Tech­ni­cal Sup­port Di­vi­sions (TSDs) for the Army to cover our land borders. The ter­rain along the In­dia-Myan­mar bor­der is rugged, thickly forested and dif­fi­cult. The gaps be­tween the posts too have dense un­der­growth that fa­cil­i­tates easy in­fil­tra­tion and smug­gling es­pe­cially in hours of dark­ness and in­clement weather. The pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment was plan­ning to re­place the As­sam Ri­fles (AR) with the Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force (BSF) along the Indo-Myan­mar bor­der which mer­ci­fully the present Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor (NSA) has ruled out. But what the gov­ern­ment should con­sider is to de­ploy BSF units to beef up the bor­der de­fence but they should be placed un­der com­mand of the army like the AR to en­sure the ‘One Bor­der, One Force’ prin­ci­ple, not re­peat­ing the mess cre­ated in Dep­sang and Chu­mar where the Indo-Ti­betan Bor­der Po­lice (ITBP) is not un­der com­mand the army. The Spe­cial Forces raids on two ter­ror­ist camps in My­na­mar are a good be­gin­ning at the tac­ti­cal level but we need to need to ur­gently ad­dress the strate­gic level. In­dia’s pur­suit of ide­al­ism and in­ward look­ing pol­icy whether by de­fault or de­sign, lat­ter aided by the en­emy within, has cost us much more in the long run. We must mix ide­al­ism with re­al­ism of the 21st cen­tury and ac­knowl­edge ne­far­i­ous de­signs of our en­e­mies. There is ur­gent need to es­tab­lish cred­i­ble deter­rence against un­con­ven­tional and proxy wars un­leashed by China and Pak­istan. We need to con­trol the fault lines of our ad­ver­saries, rather than them con­trol­ling ours.

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