Myanmar op marks India’s new strategy
Myanmar op marks India’s new strategy. The news that caught the nation’s attention recently was the speed with which the Special Forces wing of the Indian Army launched a covert military offensive, allegedly conducting surgical strikes deep inside Myanmar, in response to one of the most gruesome and deadliest attack by north-east insurgents in two decades on the Indian Army in Manipur on June 4.
The news that caught the nation’s attention recently was the speed with which the Special Forces wing of the Indian Army launched a covert military offensive, allegedly conducting surgical strikes deep inside Myanmar, in response to one of the most gruesome and deadliest attack by north-east insurgents in two decades on the Indian Army in Manipur on June 4. However, this was not the first such operation. Recall, to curb such inter-State terrorist activities from across the borders, Operation Golden Bird had been conducted along the Myanmar border in 1995 and Operation All Clear inside Bhutan in 2003.
But what is different this time is the swift speed of execution of the operation along with a determined political will. Over the years, some countries have sought to introduce an expanded doctrine of hot pursuit on land, to justify the breaches of territorial sovereignty of foreign States as part of the on-going pursuit of offenders. For instance, in 1986, South Africa sought to justify its incursions into neighbouring African States on the basis of the doctrine of hot pursuit, inviting the condemnation of the United Nations Security Council.
More recently, Kenya sought to justify its military actions against Al-Shabaab militants in Somali territory on the basis of this adapted doctrine of hot pursuit, again inviting criticism from the international community. As is explicit, the doctrine of hot pursuit is a highly controversial one and hence is generally rejected. The Myanmar Operation is also criticised on this ground. But India’s legal position would be best served by calling this operation self-defence which has witnessed a normative evolution, particularly in relation to non-State actors, following the events of 11 September 2001.
Questions were also raised about the fact that India has breached international law as official authorities in Myanmar had not been informed about the operation. But these allegations can be conveniently sidelined because the Indian Defence Ministry and the office of Myanmar’s President Thein Sein had together confirmed that the Army’s Special Forces had crossed into Myanmar to execute the operation. Also, such controversy is uncalled for because there is a treaty between the two nations from the 1990s on operations across the border in hot pursuit of the militants.
The other issue that is raised is whether the Indian Army would replicate the same in Pakistan? What one needs to bear in mind is that carrying out surgical strikes in Pakistan is a different ball game. Pakistan is an enemy nation and Myanmar is not. Sending troops to Pakistan will escalate the problem and might blow into a full-fledged war. Covert operation is a deadly game of punch and counter punch. The cross-border strike has just changed the rules of the game, not ended it. The game goes on, as the solution is not military but political.
Also, the military forces and the intelligence agencies should be on their toes to keep vigil and ready to respond in case any retaliation takes place from the rebel camps. The most prominent discussion that should draw the attention of the people in context of the Myanmar Operation is not the fact about India’s capability to conduct precision strikes or engage in “hot pursuit” but to showcase how the two elected sovereign governments can simply be on the same page to effectively take on disruptive non-State actors.
Shaken by this operation, the most worried State, Pakistan seemed to send feelers across the social media every now and then that it isn’t Myanmar and that any such action by the Indian army on Islamabad’s soil would invite trouble for New Delhi. To these lackadaisical statements made by the official authorities in Islamabad, one can only say that if Pakistan isn’t Myanmar, then neither is Kashmir the south of Afghanistan where it can send its armed proxies at will.
By Amrita Banerjee