Spe­cial oper­a­tions in Myan­mar

SP's MAI - - MILITARY VIEWPOINTS - — By Air Mar­shal B.K. Pandey (Retd)

In the early hours of June 9 this year, In­dian Spe­cial Forces car­ried out sur­gi­cal oper­a­tions deep in­side Myan­mar ter­ri­tory. Their tar­gets were two camps of the Na­tion­al­ist So­cial­ist Coun­cil of Na­ga­land (Kha­p­lang) and al­lied in­sur­gent groups. As re­vealed by Army Head­quar­ters in a brief­ing to the media, the cross-bor­der oper­a­tions by the Spe­cial Forces were mounted in re­tal­i­a­tion to the killing of 18 In­dian Army per­son­nel a few days ear­lier by the Naga in­sur­gents. Be­sides, the oper­a­tions in Myan­mar were pre-emp­tive in na­ture as there were re­li­able in­tel­li­gence re­ports of plan­ning by the in­sur­gents of fur­ther at­tacks on In­dian forces in­side the In­dian ter­ri­tory.

The swift re­sponse by the In­dian se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment to the mas­sacre of In­dian sol­diers on June 4, 2015, is gen­er­ally be­ing re­garded as a pos­i­tive change in the pol­icy of the In­dian Gov­ern­ment in deal­ing with ter­ror­ists, mil­i­tants or anti-na­tional el­e­ments. While the decisive re­sponse by the In­dian se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment is be­ing lauded in In­dia it has evoked equally vi­cious and of­fen­sive re­sponse from Pak­istan that was clearly rat­tled. While the plan­ning and con­duct of the oper­a­tions re­flects pro­fes­sion­al­ism of a high or­der, it is de­bat­able whether the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia ought to have in­dulged in chest thump­ing as it did, as also per­mit­ted the media blitz.

Though not openly ad­mit­ted by the gov­ern­ment, it is un­der­stood that cross-bor­der oper­a­tions clas­si­fied as ‘hot pur­suit’ into Myan­mar have been un­der­taken a num­ber of times in the past by the In­dian Spe­cial Forces to tar­get in­sur­gent groups. The Gov­ern­ment of Myan­mar has been aware of such oper­a­tions, but has not voiced protest as it does not sup­port the in­sur­gent groups. It there­fore prefers to let the In­dian forces tackle these el­e­ments as they deem fit. How­ever, in the past, the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia has to­tally re­frained from al­low­ing such oper­a­tions to come into the public do­main pri­mar­ily to ob­vi­ate em­bar­rass­ment to the Gov­ern­ment of Myan­mar. Such oper­a­tions of clan­des­tine na­ture are sen­si­tive in char­ac­ter and re­quire care­ful and deft back­room diplo­macy. No gov­ern­ment would like to pub­licly ac­knowl­edge ac­cep­tance of un­der­cover oper­a­tions in their ter­ri­tory by the forces of another coun­try. Es­pe­cially in the case of Myan­mar whose con­sti­tu­tion does not per­mit oper­a­tions by for­eign forces on their soil, pub­li­cis­ing of covert oper­a­tions with in­di­ca­tions that these were un­der­taken with tacit ap­proval of the gov­ern­ment, would un­doubt­edly cause se­ri­ous em­bar­rass­ment. This is what seems to have hap­pened as the Gov­ern­ment of Myan­mar has ex­pressed an­noy­ance at the un­prece­dented pub­lic­ity of the episode by the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia in the In­dian media.

The oper­a­tions into Myan­mar by the In­dian Spe­cial Forces were es­sen­tially covert in na­ture and in all fair­ness to the Gov­ern­ment of Myan­mar, the In­dian Gov­ern­ment ought to have en­sured that the ex­er­cise re­mained covert.

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