Does the Myanmar SF strike redefine Indian policy?

Listen to Bharat Karnad comment on the Myanmar strike by the Indian army
(text of above)
Q: The Myanmar strikes are in the news right now. Do you think it is redefining India’s counter-terrorism policy?

A: Yes, I think it is. Earlier it was a passive mode where you did not really react in the manner you did this time. This is definitely a new approach by the government wherein they are going to retaliate in a very hard fashion if there is a terrorist attack by anybody across any border. So it effectively opens up possibilities against China (since it is a disputed border) and Pakistan as well.

The not so good thing that has happened is that it has taken an anti-Pakistan note because of our usual habit of reducing everything down to Pakistan, and in a sense it defeats the larger strategic purpose that we are trying to signal. Unfortunately, former Colonel and current Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Rathore, putting an anti-Pakistan spin on things in an indirect way has not helped either. Targeting Pakistan is not on because all it does is that Pakistan gets all worked up, everyone starts talking about a possible nuclear scenario, and the essential thing is lost.

Instead, what we are trying to say is – if there is a terrorist strike, we will respond to the strikes by eliminating the terrorists – the groups that are responsible for the strike. Very simple.

The other downside of the strike is that we have also put the Special Forces in the news by sharing their photographs. This is not done. Special Forces are special because they are incognito. Their photographs should never come out because they can become targets. These are secret missions. Now you have gone and said that the 21 Para commandos carried this out. You never let out which commando group did it.

Q: How important is it to have the consent, or the partnership of the country in which you are going to conduct the surgical strikes?

A: When the countries themselves recognise there is a problem, as the Myanmar government does, as the Bhutanese government earlier did wherein we carried out a similar operation in 2003 eliminating ULFA terrorists, then it is fine. This was in that league, where compliant states were aware of the problem and they also needed help to root out terrorist outfits, which had forcibly occupied space in their own land.

In Burma, the Khaplang NSCN faction for instance (which wants an independent Nagaland), has support from Kachin army, also known as Chin army, which in turn is supported by China. The Kachin or Chin army controls Northern-North Eastern Myanmar. This part of Myanmar is controlled remotely by China through the Kachin army.

This is a much larger situation than merely going across the Manipur border and hitting. It points out the rather grave possibility of bigger powers involved, and I am not talking about Pakistan, but China. This raises the question – would India respond, as we seem to have some evidence of the Khaplang NSCN faction being supported by China through the Kachin army, in a similar manner in Northern Myanmar? Interesting thought. That is what we need to worry about. Pakistan is a very minor issue. We always get side-tracked and that’s what we should avoid doing.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Bhutan, China, China military, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Myanmar, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, society, South Asia, South East Asia, Special Forces, Terrorism. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Does the Myanmar SF strike redefine Indian policy?

  1. Shail says:

    Good Analysis. Actually if the Jingos had not squawked and maintained plausible deniability, we could have conceivably got away with similar strikes elsewhere too.

  2. AAYUSH's says:

    god save us from jingoism, first nepal now myanmar. All good work wasted.

  3. Anshuman says:

    pardon me sir if my question is little out of context. I wanted to know that considering the security scenario india faces vis a vis pakistan and the very fact that pakistan possesses tactical nuclear weapons should we not revive our military strategy to focus upon naval and air supremacy rather rather than concentrate heavily on strike formations which you have pointed out earlier in your articles surely our navycan bring pakistan 2 it’s knees by enforcing a blockade also conduct air strike surely their tactical nukes will count for nothing

    • Anshuman:
      The incapacity of the strike corps does not reduce the contingent utility of a more compact armoured and mechanized force. In fact, the navy’s first order of business in war with Pakistan is to impose a blockade, which it can do. It is less certain the air force will be as easily able to dominate the skies, however. And finally, while tactical nukes do pose a problem, it is more of softening the Indian will. Once Pak first uses a tacnuke as it says it will, all bets are off Pakistan will cease to exist — a denouement Pakistan hugely fears, which’s the reason why I have argued over the past nearly two decades (since both states went formally weapons nuclear) that Pak won’t initiate a nucl;ear exchange in the first place no matter what the provocation short, of course, of further partition of country affected by Indian arms, which’s not on the cards.

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