Army avenges Manipur ambush: The 'why', 'how' and 'what next' of the Myanmar operation

In response to the killing of 18 of its troops by militants in Manipur, the Indian Army in one of its biggest covert missions sent troops into Myanmar to strike at two camps and, according to official estimates, killed over 20 suspected militants.

The operation seemed to signal a more aggressive Indian military strategy aimed at weeding out terrorist threats. So how was such a bold operation planned, and what really happened on the ground? And is it a precursor for more such strikes in the future? Here's everything you need to know about the Myanmar operation:

How did the Indian Army know where to attack?

The Indian Army has said that it had received 'credible and specific intelligence' on the basis of which it carried out attacks on two separate groups of insurgents who were camped in Myanmar along the Nagaland and Manipur border.

Army avenges Manipur ambush: The why, how and what next of the Myanmar operation

Representational image. AFP image

The army had received intelligence about two camps of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) and its allies from operatives, who reportedly crossed over into Myanmar days ago and returned with photographs that showed the precise locations, said a Times of India report.

The militant camps are reported to have housed militants from the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) and other Meitei insurgent groups, according to a Hindustan Times report. Top leaders of the NSCN, including the group's self-styled finance minister Starson Lamkang, who is said to have been responsible for the Manipur attack, may have been present at the camp, sources told the newspaper.

How was the attack carried out?

Reports said that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had dropped out of the Prime Minister's diplomatic visit to Bangladesh to help plan the operation with Army chief General Dalbir Singh.

According to an NDTV report, Mi-17 helicopters were used to ferry personnel from the Army's 21 Para (Special Forces) unit and Assam Rifles two-kilometres deep into Myanmar. The commandoes then reportedly proceeded on foot and in the last leg of their journey crawled hundreds of metres to finally raid the camps. They were also reportedly assisted by the helicopters and drones deployed by the Indian Air Force, according to the Times of India.

Not a single Indian troop sustained major injuries in the attack, while the number of suspected militants killed is currently pegged at 20 but could be higher, officials said.

The helicopters were then used to ferry the troops back into India.

So did Myanmar know about the attack?

The Indian Army in its official statement said that they had been in touch with Myanmar authorities.

"We are in communication with the Myanmar authorities on this matter. There is a history of close cooperation between our two militaries. We look forward to working with them to combat such terrorism," the official statement from the Indian Army said.

However, reports said that the India had informed Myanmar well after the operation had already begun. The Times of India said that Indian authorities had done so, despite having an agreement to permit troops crossing the border, because they feared a leak of information from the lower ranks of the Myanmar army to the militants.

According to an Economic Times report, the Myanmar army doesn't have operational control in the region where the attacks were carried out.

Is this the first such cross-border operation of its kind?

Turns out it has. An Indian Express report cites the various instances where the Indian Army has acted in collaboration with the armed forces of the neighbouring nations. However, the last major attack carried out in Myanmar was reportedly in 1995 when India had carried out a joint military operation to block 200 militants from reaching Manipur with a consignment of arms.

But the report also notes that never before has the Indian Army been as public about a attack carried out across the border. Equally unprecedented is the speed of the reprisal for a terrorist attack.

In this case, the Indian Army is reported to have acted with such alacrity due to a clearance from the Prime Minister. The reprisal was reportedly sanctioned in order to boost the morale of the army after the Manipur attack in which 18 soldiers were killed.

Does this mean the Indian army can do the same in other neighbouring countries?

The Indian Army's press release and other statements by the government hint that the Modi government will not be averse to carrying out other such strikes in other neighbouring countries.

MoS and retired Colonel Rajyavardhan Rathore's tweet on the attack is also seen as a sign of things to come.

He also told the Indian Express , "This is a message for all countries, including Pakistan, and groups harbouring terror intent towards India. A terrorist is a terrorist and has no other identity. We will strike when we want to."

However, the Indian Army doesn't have agreements of the same kind it with these countries. Similar attacks carried out along the Line of Control have been done clandestinely and close to the border. Wading two kilometres into an other country is near impossible without sanction from the concerned nation and the Indian government is unlikely to risk antagonising other nations by doing so.

So no 'surgical strikes' deep in Pakistan?

Except in Bollywood films, such a strike is very very unlikely. Unless the Indian Army intends to start an all out war, it will not be able to carry out an attack of this sort in Pakistan.

Pakistan National Security Advisor had cautioned in 2014 that a 'surgical strike' was not an option for India.

"Our army is fully alert and capable to appropriate response," he had warned. Add to that the threat of nuclear war and you have two very good reasons why Indian choppers won't be flying across the Pakistan border any time soon.

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Updated Date: Jun 11, 2015 09:06:53 IST

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