Last Tuesday, Indian forces carried out surgical strikes inside Myanmar’s territory, reportedly inflicting “significant casualties” which, as per varying estimates, stand at 50-100 militants. As reported, the blitzkrieg maneuvers were done by India’s Special Forces (21 Para), that is a unit under Kolkata-based Eastern Command headquarters, along with troops of Assam Riffeles (27 Sector and 10 Sector). The operation was supported by Indian Air force’s Mi-17 helicopters which targeted NSCN-K camps at two locations Including Tuensang in Nagaland and Ukhrul in Manipur.
The Indian reaction came in response to militants’ attack on Indian military convoy on June 4, which killed 18 Indian soldiers in the Chandel District of Manipur. Following Indian military excursion inside Myanmar, there was a flurry of tweets/statements from Indian political establishment. Terming it revenge, Indian minister in charge of broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore declared the raid “a message for all countries, including Pakistan”. Projecting India’s military and political prowess, he went on to say, “We will strike at a place and at a time of our choosing”. It obviously resulted in firm statements from Pakistan’s political and military leadership alike, reiterating their resolve to protect their land against any Indian adventurism.
It is however important to highlight that Indian political establishment’s statements are inherently contradictory and giving a false impression of India’s military might. The statements drawing parallel between Pakistan and Myanmar may soothe the ears of BJP’s extremist cult essentially the RSS, but they fail to stand the test of political correctness and military capability.
First of all, it is erroneous to assume that it was a solo flight by India without prior permission from the government of Myanmar as some initial reports suggested. To put the record straight, there exists a treaty between the two countries since 1990s on operations across the border and also an agreement that permits locals on both sides for a cross border movement within a range of 15 km on both sides. In the past, there have been instances when Burmese army personnel also crossed the Indian border in pursuit of the Kachin insurgents. Later in 2010, India signed a mutual legal assistance agreement through which Indian insurgents held in Myanmar could be deported for trial under Indian laws. Therefore this operation was carried out under existing treaty and after seeking prior approval from the government of Myanmar. There is no such romanticism vis-à-vis Pakistan. On the contrary, Pakistan and India have a history of border conflicts and Pakistan has made it clear at a number of times that any such adventurism inside Pakistani territory would be considered an act of war.
Secondly, it would be India’s sheer naivety to view Pakistan as a soft swallow. Politically it would be difficult for India to carry out such an action, that too without establishing credible proofs as there are instances in past when some terrorist activity in India blamed on Pakistan, was later on proved to be perpetrated by Hindu extremists. Furthermore, Pakistan maintains a strong professional military force with advanced high tech capabilities to respond to any such action. According to a latest report by eminent American analysts, citing India’s former military officials, India lacks technical and professional capability to carry out such a strike against Pakistan with complete precision. Various reports corroborate that India is far behind in gathering real-time intelligence that is an essential pre-requisite for such an action to begin with. Most importantly both states face altogether different dynamics due to the possession of nuclear weapons. Such a provocative action would certainly let loose escalation spiral, with no possibility of escalation dominance at either side.
The inflammatory jingoistic statements from Indian political establishment, in view of Myanmar operation are nothing but an act of irresponsible statesmanship. It expresses complete absence of political wisdom on their part and ignorance of ground realities. On the other hand, it further strengthens the rationale for having strong conventional as well as nuclear capability to deter any such (mis) adventurism against Pakistan.
*The writer is a former visiting fellow at Middleburry Institute of International Studies, Monterey, California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org