Don't brag about covert operations

The cross-border military operation by the Indian armed forces against North-East militants taking sanctuary in Myanmar was swift and successful. The militants had carried out the deadly ambush of soldiers in Manipur on June 4 and in an efficiently executed operation by Indian commandos, scores of these militants were eliminated. The Indian Army deserves applause. Considerable groundwork, no doubt, preceded the operation. The Indian and Myanmar militaries have been cooperating on counter-insurgency operations for several years now, coordinating their strategies and even carrying out joint strikes. Myanmar’s armed forces would crackdown on the bases of anti-India militant groups on its soil and chase them into Indian territory where the Indian forces would then nab them. The recent operation is an extension of this robust co-operation. However, this is the first time that India has crossed the border in pursuit of militants.

Unfortunately, some unpleasant chest-thumping and boasting by ministers of the Narendra Modi government have followed up a professionally executed military operation. This is likely to negate all the gains made by India’s diplomats in building warm relations with the neighbours. Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Rathore’s comment that Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the operation “deep” into Myanmar territory has embarrassed the Myanmar government and put it in a spot. After all, which country would like to be seen to have allowed foreign troops to operate on its soil or not responded robustly to this violation of its territorial sovereignty? To tom-tom the entry of Indian forces into Myanmar is insensitive, foolish and counter-productive. Not only does it reinforce India’s image as the neighbourhood bully but also it is short-sighted. Next time India wants Myanmar’s help in countering terrorism, it may not get the helping hand it has received hitherto.

If Rathore’s remarks vis-a-vis Myanmar were insensitive, his threatening rhetoric against Pakistan, suggesting that it could be the target of similar strikes is unwarranted and dangerous. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar added fuel to the fire with a jibe at Pakistan. This has set off a war of words and Pakistan’s Senate has passed a resolution condemning India’s “provocative and hostile” statements that reflect a “hegemonic mindset.” The Modi government seems keener on drawing political mileage out of the recent military operation than on systematically and quietly tackling terrorism in the country. In hot pursuit of publicity and public applause, it is forgetting that a covert operation should be executed quietly and not be boasted about. Modi’s ministerial colleagues need to pipe down immediately.

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