Brevity is certainly not a strong point with many of our political worthies. Had they contained their desire to come up with triumphalist sound bites on the commando operation in Myanmar, the huge ongoing debate on the viability of such a policy with a neighbour like, say, Pakistan, could have been avoided.
The sort of chest-thumping indulged in by certain ministers undermines the government’s policy of zero tolerance on terror. It also puts the country involved, in this case Myanmar, in a difficult situation domestically. No government would like to be seen as complicit in foreign forces entering its territory for any reason, howsoever justified it may be. In this case, no sooner had the operation been conducted successfully, even junior ministers made remarks to the effect that a message had been sent out to the country’s rivals, leading to Pakistan reacting with its characteristic belligerence.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has begun an outreach to neighbouring countries. This was meant to show that India is a team player and not big brother as it has often been accused of being in the past. Now, with this needless rhetoric, India is once again being seen as a bit of a bully, much to the delight of Pakistan which has been trying to make the Myanmar operation an international issue.
The army, which has borne the brunt of militancy in the northeast and coordinated the operation, has rightly maintained a discreet silence. By suggesting that more operations could be carried out, the militants are forewarned and could well shift their operations to safer locations in neighbouring countries.
It is also inexplicable as to how a junior minister has been empowered to speak on such an important and strategically crucial policy. The Indian Army has been carrying out such operations for years, but in such a manner as to not embarrass the country whose territory is involved. This sort of shooting from hip on the issue of the so-called terror boat, which may or may not have originated from Pakistan, earlier resulted in much embarrassment for the government. Surely, some lessons could have been learnt from that. The Prime Minister has been known to advise restraint to his ministers. While it is no one’s case that the government should be secretive, when it comes to strategic policy which involves the lives of our security forces, it would be better to just state the facts and leave it at that. This is the real message that has to be understood by some in the political establishment and this must be emphasised strongly by the highest quarter.