The news of hot pursuit of militants of NSCN(K) and KYKL deep into Myanmar’s territory was bound to fill the patriotic with nationalistic fervour and raise the hackles of Pakistan, the most notorious of countries that not only shelter terrorists but also use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. That it made the opposition in India uncomfortable is a sad commentary on the nature of polity in the country. From Atal Bihari Vajpayee likening Indira Gandhi to Goddess Durga in 1971 after we carved Bangladesh out of Pakistan to 1999 when the Congress, which already had Sonia Gandhi at its helm, said that the whole nation needed to speak in one voice during the Kargil War, domestic political adversity has never stooped to puerility on the question of the nation’s stand against forces inimical to its interests. While the Manmohan Singh Government had been found wanting on the strategic front as much as in the economic field, the party that now has a mere 44 seats in the Lok Sabha could have risen a few notches in public esteem by lauding Narendra Modi’s resolve — at least while not crediting the prime minister for the military operations if that, it reckoned, would confuse its depleting supporter base. Of course, our defence forces have always been an object of the nation’s pride, but to credit it wholly for eliminating terrorists across the border would imply our men in jungle fatigues are an unruly force beyond the civilian dispensation’s control like its Pakistani counterpart, which is anything but true. Our jawans were always capable of the feat; until now it was the political will and consent for such moves that were lacking.
A jarring note at this moment of redemption was the denial by Naypyidaw the morning after. But that cannot be taken seriously. A surgical strike by the Indian Army inside Burmese territory, while informing Burma about it rather than seeking its consent for it, was an embarrassment for the targeted country. It put a big question mark on its sovereignty and threatened to project it as a pushover in the comity of nations. Myanmar had to officially deny it. And India had to revise its statement of the previous day as there was no point embarrassing a country that may not be a democracy, but is not a hostile neighbour either. Besides, had the operations been carried out after getting its approval from Myanmar, Pakistan would not have been so rattled by the development. Mercifully, except for murmurs of dismissal from some journalists on social media, the morning newspapers more or less confirmed the Indian version of the story. In fact, they went a step further, reporting that more such operations were being planned.
Importantly, Prime Minister Modi has stood true to his pre-election statement last year that such operations were not supposed to be talked about before they were executed. There was no jingoistic call for attack by his government — just a silent, flawless execution of the plan and an official statement from an Army spokesperson after the successful bout. One cannot hold the government responsible for some of its fans going berserk in celebrations. One is reminded of the quietude that preceded Pokhran II nuclear tests under Vajpayee in 1998; avowed critics of the right wing did not like it, rather oddly, that they were not taken into confidence for the decision. Is that the Congress’s grouse even in the present case?
To suggest that the ops can be replicated to teach trouble-fomenting Pakistan a lesson would be a stretch, given its army’s strength that is more than Myanmar’s and given its pathological enmity towards India. However, the idea holds good for a possible covert operation aided by a select group of commandos, spies and a few corruptible Pakistanis. Finally, what India must take heart from is the arrival of a government that does not suffer fools. The prime minister-defence minister-national security adviser trio deserves appreciation of the countrymen whom post-Indira Gandhi Congress had convinced it was unfashionable and unrealistic to be nationalistic. India’s citizens are a bit safer within the confines of its international borders now.