India has long had the dubious distinction of being considered a ‘soft’ state when it comes to handling terror. The Narendra Modi government seems to have decided to change that. In the early hours of Tuesday, it conducted a cross-border attack on at least two rebel camps in Myanmar. The operation was not just in retaliation to the June 4 attack that killed at least 18 army personnel but was also pre-emptive.
This is not the first time India has conducted a cross-border operation, though it often has not admitted to such ops. In 2006, the militaries of both India and Myanmar conducted a joint operation against NSCN (K) militants. In 2003, the army killed or captured around 650 militants during Operation All Clear in Bhutan, where around 30 terror camps were targeted. But, what makes the latest attack stand out is the fact that the government did not waste a moment to hit back.
Tuesday’s attack could not have taken place without New Delhi’s approval or without keeping Myanmar in the loop. It clearly shows that with political will and co-operation with neighbouring states India can successfully counter militant groups working to spread terror and foster unrest in the border states.
There is no doubt that the strike in Myanmar was a success, given that there were no reported casualties on India’s side. But it’s advisable to not get carried away by its success and dangerous to suggest that it was also a “message to all countries, including Pakistan...” as Union minister of state Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore put it. He was also quoted by a national daily as saying that “we will strike at a place and at a time of our choosing”.
Such statements rob Tuesday’s attack of its legitimacy, suggesting that India violated Myanmar’s airspace. Also, it is preposterous to suggest that such an operation can be conducted on our western border, given that it is unlikely Islamabad will co-operate with New Delhi.
Attacks of this nature are at best left in the able hands of our armed forces and politicising this will escalate tensions, and attract unwarranted attention and unintended consequences. Mr Modi has rightly stressed building ties with our neighbours.
Such ties will help in checking terror activities along our borders — the Delhi-Dhaka ties have been successful in checking terror groups operating along the porous border. Such co-operations will go a long way in tackling terrorism and maintaining peace in the subcontinent. The Myanmar strike will prove a morale booster for the army and instill confidence in the public.