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NSCN(K) encounter shows Army resolve to fight infiltration bids

LiveMint logoLiveMint 28-09-2017 Shaswati Das

New Delhi: Wednesday’s Army encounter with Naga insurgents, in which 30 rebels were killed, has sent out a clear message that the Army is ready to repulse any cross-border infiltration attempt forcefully, intelligence officers and analysts said.

One year ago, in the early hours of 29 September, two teams of the Indian Army’s Para Commandos crossed the Line-of-Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, killing as many as 38 terrorists and two Pakistani soldiers, just 10 days after militants killed 19 Indian Army soldiers at the Indian Army’s Uri camp on 19 September 2016.

Almost a year later, in the early hours of Wednesday, the Indian Army gunned down 30 insurgents of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang or NSCN-K.

The Army’s eastern command denied that the latest action was a surgical strike, saying the insurgents had crossed over from Myanmar and attacked an Army patrol, triggering the shootout.

Army chief Bipin Rawat said on Monday that last year’s surgical strike across the LoC had been a message “we wanted to communicate to them and they have understood what we mean. Things could follow up, if required.”

“General Rawat has made it clear that terrorists will be pushed ‘two and a half feet below the ground’. The Indian Army is no longer mired in diplomacy,” a senior intelligence officer said on condition of anonymity. “It is now a hardcore, operational army which will strike when the need arises.”

Home minister Rajnath Singh pointed out at briefing on Wednesday that India shares friendly relations with Myanmar.

The intelligence officer cited above said operations taking place along the Indo-Myanmar border involved Myanmar’s cooperation.

“Even Myanmar does not want the NSCN(K) militants on their ground and neither do they support them. However, Pakistan has the wherewithal to breed these militants and fund and train them as well. So the government’s stand was much more firm in case of the surgical strike in (Pakistan Occupied) Kashmir last year,” the officer said.

When executing a big strike, the officer added, protocol required the Army chief to consult with the government and the national security advisor (NSA).

“If a surgical strike is the only option, then the government takes a call on it because it requires taking a decision on a diplomatic level. In that case, it is the army and the government’s job to ensure that not only are terrorists killed, but our soldiers are also brought back safely,” he stated.

Defence experts said encounters and surgical strikes were based on intelligence inputs.

“These strikes are purely a function of intelligence. They are also based on political decisions because surgical strikes require forces to cross the border,” said Gurmeet Kanwal, defence analyst at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). “But the NSCN(K) had abrogated the ceasefire in 2015 and operations against them have been ongoing.”

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