To put an end to cross border insurgent attacks, India needs to seriously take up the issue with Myanmar.
Myanmar Operation was enough a message to the insurgents that New Delhi can no longer tolerate their nefarious activities engineered from the soil of a neighbouring country. It is not the issue at this moment of counting casualties on either side. It is an issue of retaliation in right time to save civilian casualties deliberately planned by insurgents.
It is not that New Delhi was reluctant to talk to insurgents. Enough exercise was done over the years including signing of peace accords and extending it over periods of time. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), one of the groups that claimed responsibility for the June 4 deadly attack on the Indian Army, had unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire agreement in March 2015 and joined the umbrella organisation, United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFW) along with United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I).
On June 4, insurgents ambushed and killed 18 members of 6 Dogra Regiment who were patrolling on Tengnoupal-New Samtal Road in Chandel district in Manipur, about 15 km from Myanmar border. Apart from NSCN-K, KCP and KYKL have so far claimed the responsibility for the attack from across the border.
This deadly attack provoked retaliation by the Indian Army on June 9 through surgical attacks against the known bases of the insurgents located across the border at two points. The National Security Advisor Ajit Doval who was scheduled to accompany Prime Minister Modi on his two-day Bangladesh visit on June 6 preferred to stay back. The Army Chief Dalbir Singh Suhag dropped his UK tour.
The hot pursuit seems to be well calibrated and based on intelligence reports. “In the course of the last few days, credible and specific intelligence was received about further attacks that were being planned within our territory,” a statement issued by the Indian Army on the day of retaliation said.
Based on intelligence reports, the Indian Army tactically engaged the militants at two points along the Nagaland and Manipur borders. The statement, however, did not give the number of casualties, but said “significant casualties have been inflicted on them.” It also claimed “threats to our civilian population and security forces were averted.”
But the possibility of further attacks by insurgents from across the border is not yet over. Their base camps still remain intact on the other side of the border. Several reports are being circulated about the death toll of insurgents, some say 20, some 50, some several injured. But this is not the issue for discussion till all the base camps are eliminated and insurgent activities against India stop being operated from Myanmar soil.
The matter definitely needs to be taken up with the Myanmar Government at a diplomatic level to find an ultimate solution. However, some politicians of the ruling party including the MoS for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, went overboard in praise for the operation that invited backlash from Myanmar and Pakistan. Myanmar also has its own problems. There are areas along its borders with India where the government is unable to exercise its control. Myanmar signed a peace accord with NSCN-K in April 2012. There are reports about Indian intelligence intercepting talks between Chinese PLA officers and Khaplang and the Chinese pressuring Myanmar for entering into a peace accord with NSCN-K. Having signed peace accord with the NSCN-K, Myanmar may not be willing to act against terror camps in North Sagaing region and Chin state, particularly when it is fighting with the Kokangg, Kachins and other rebel groups within its own territory.
To put an end to cross border insurgent attacks, India needs to seriously take up the issue with Myanmar. New Delhi should also understand Myanmar’s problems and constraints and work jointly to address the same. Myanmar too wants peace to prevail on its soil. It should be recalled that in April-May 1995 India’s Operation Golden Bird against terrorists moving from Bandarban in Chittagong and tracks along Myanmar border did not succeed due to lack of cooperation from the Myanmar Army. Myanmar must be taken on board to resolve the insurgent problem. For India’s Look East Policy to succeed there should be peace and tranquillity at the border.
Ashok B Sharma
(The writer is a senior columnist)