When the government decided to field Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore Tuesday night to talk about the Indian Army’s strike on terrorist camps in Myanmar, it was because it felt he could send the message across louder and clearer than the Army could.
Sources said a political intervention was felt necessary at the “highest level” and that’s how Rathore, a retired Army colonel, was chosen to give out details the Army couldn’t. The Army, it was felt, had limitations in sharing operational details and its briefing had failed to even acknowledge that its Special Forces had crossed over into Myanmar territory. Stating only that it had engaged separate groups at two locations along the border (Nagaland and Manipur), Army sources had simply asked the media “to read between the lines”.
Rathore, who had already posted a couple of tweets, was asked late in the evening to get a proper fix on the details and talk to the media. He was, in fact, asked to be ready with details for television crews who, he was told, were on their way to his home.
In that short time, Rathore was briefed about the operation and what details he could share. By 10 pm, he had gone on record that the operations “involved our Special Forces crossing the border and going deep into another country” and that the strikes were a message to all countries, including Pakistan, and groups harbouring “terror intent” towards India that “we will strike at a place and at a time of our choosing.”
On Wednesday, it was Union minister Prakash Javadekar who declared the strike was a “message”. His colleague Nitin Gadkari, however, said the matter was not discussed in Wednesday’s cabinet meeting and that the Prime Minister was not congratulated by the ministers. “It is already clear that we have a zero tolerance towards terror and terror organisations. The official spokesperson of the military has given detailed information about the action,” Gadkari said.
BJP headquarters chose not to go for celebrations, although some regional units did. “We are not going in for hype,” a party functionary said. “Let the soldiers take the credit for the operation.”
Another senior office-bearer said the raid had indeed sent a strong signal across to insurgents that this government meant business. However, he said there was no point over-emphasising it.
Asked if the same kind of action could be replicated on the western border, he said one could not replicate the same strategy everywhere. “It is a different ball game in the case of Pakistan… Here, you would be dealing with a nuclear power… Moreover, in the present case, we were chasing our own insurgents in Myanmar territory, while on the western border we have to contend with foreign militants,” he said.