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.
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.