A day after the Army carried out strikes across the Myanmar border at militant groups suspected to be behind the June 4 attack on the Army convoy, sources said today that more such operations could not be ruled out given the “scale” of the Northeast militant infrastructure across the border.
Sources said there are an estimated 20 camps which are likely targets. Officials also maintained ambiguity over the Tuesday operation saying “all is not over”.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is expected to visit Myanmar soon to discuss further “joint action” against the insurgents. Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Gautam Mukhopadhaya today reviewed the post-operation situation with senior officials of the Myanmar government in the capital Nay Pyi Taw.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar had visited Myanmar unannounced on May 22 ahead of fighting breaking out with the NSCN (K) to firm up cross-border security cooperation plans. Officials said his visit was not related to yesterday’s operations.
In details that have now begun to emerge, sources said that at least 20 militants were killed and 11 “seriously injured” in the operations that were carried out by commandos “on foot”. Interestingly, the “men” picked up for the operation were ones with “North-Eastern features” so that they could blend in.
The operation was led by 21 Special Forces (Para), an elite para-commando unit of the Indian Army. Sources said that though India’s intention to stage retaliatory strikes was shared with Myanmar days ahead of the attack, data on specific targets was “neither asked for nor given.”
Explained: Hunters of the NSCN (K)
Some of the militants killed could have been involved in the last Thursday’s ambush in Chandel which killed 18 soldiers of the Dogra unit.
Sources said that one team of 21 Special Forces, based at Leimakhong, slithered down from two Advanced Light helicopters onto militat camps in Myanmar territory. Although these camps were identified targets, their location was confirmed by UAV missions carried out from Imphal. At least three UAV missions were conducted every week and latest images were compared with previous ones to confirm that the camps were still occupied.
Sources said that these camps are not very deep in Myanmar territory. They lie close to a prominent local commercial route between India and Myanmar, allowing the militants to extort money from traders.
Thoubal-based 2 Assam Rifles and Moreh-based 11 Assam Rifles were used in a supporting ground role for the operation. The SF personnel used portable rockets and grenades. Sources said that an additional team of 21 SF has been mobilised in Dimapur and is being inducted into the India-Myanmar border.
Assam Rifles units on India-Myanmar border in Chandel and adjoining districts are on high alert to monitor any suspicious movement of militants who have been scattered after Wednesday’s operation. The Army is also wary of any retaliatory attacks being planned by NSCN (K).
The local Assam Rifles units have been working closely with the Manipur civilian administration to convince the local population that they will not be inconvenienced or harassed by these operations, this being the harvesting season.
Meanwhile, NSCN (K) has contested the Army’s claim in handouts sent to the local media in which it rejected the reports of cross-border operation as “false” and alleged that these were efforts by the Indian Army to “salvage their reputation”.
The Myanmar government has confirmed that Indian soldiers had entered their country on Wednesday. Zaw Htay, director of the office of Myanmar President Thein Sein was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying that there was “coordination and cooperation” between the Indian troops and Myanmar’s armed forces but added that no Myanmar soldiers were directly involved.
“We will never allow or support insurgents, whether (they are) against Myanmar or against our neighbouring countries,” Zaw Htay is quoted as saying.
Interestingly, the Army did not deny — or confirm — many versions of the operation on social media all through the day including cropped, pixilated photographs of purported soldiers who conducted the operations.