As the hyperbole dies down, so remains the blunt truth. The Indian Army, in all its bravado, conducted a covert operation in Myanmar/Burma to neutralize the northeast militants as revenge and/or justice for the brutal murder of Army jawans. The attack was supposed to send a signal to militants as well “certain nations” who harbor ill-will, to say the least, towards India.
Under the cover of night, as the Indian Army sought vengeance, the government would have sat in a puddle of sweat. The operation was a risk vs. reward compromise and thankfully the Army returned without any casualties. As the government and its ministers beat their chests, a parched nation rejoiced. Not only do our neighbors but also the citizens view the nation as being too soft against militants. We have in the past tried to resort to soft diplomacy and its results haven’t been great so far. As we pride ourselves in being non-violent, our enemies have no qualms about killing our citizens. One has to give in to the fact that the Modi government has taken an absolute no-nonsense approach.
However, that said, what is important to be noted is that Modi being a great promoter with astute marketing skills has given this attack a kind of halo. As ordinary citizens we may never actually know if previous governments engaged in such attacks, which are usually classified. Therefore, while we may praise Modi for showing balls and it may be true to some extent, he may have done nothing more than follow a well-defined policy. We have no conclusive yardstick to measure it by. The Indian Army and intelligence agencies are capable of conducting such operations in hostile environments like Pakistan or Afghanistan as well if need be. By sending an open warning to Pakistan, we have done nothing but create a mountain out of a molehill.
Yes, the Myanmar strike required bold decision-making on part of the government. If anything went awry the government would have to bear the liability. However, we must question ourselves that the praise that we shower on the government of the day for this attack is not unfounded. By beating the drums, BJP has effectively communicated to us that they have a government which doesn’t develop cold feet when confronted with challenges. The publicity of such attacks is to some extent justified. It acts as a morale booster to the nation as a whole and conveys important messages to hostiles.
Here’s the problem; by over-publicizing this attack, we have embarrassed Myanmar which allowed us to effectively violate its sovereignty. As we try to portray the bravery of our soldiers and the unflinching attitude of the government, we are shaming an ally by indirectly accusing them of harboring terrorists. The government, in its bid to scale a massive PR attempt might have gone a tad over the top, the lessons of which should have been learnt after the PR disaster in the Nepal earthquake.
To be fair, unless evidence appears to the contrary, we may assume that after a long time we have a government that actually takes the nation’s sovereignty seriously and will at any cost uphold its integrity, even at the cost of some embarrassing public relations nightmare, which will only be collateral damage.