NEW DELHI: No secrecy whatsoever remains over the Indian Army Special Forces (SF) cross-border operation into Myanmar territory last week, to engage terrorists responsible for killing 18 soldiers in an ambush in Manipur on 4 June.

Whatever gaps boastful NDA politicians had left— and there were few — have since been incredulously filled in by a blow-by-blow account to a newspaper, provided by a Subedar from 21 Parachute Regiment (SF) responsible for conducting the raid.

Subedar Raghupathi U M has provided a wealth of detail of the SF organization and composition, the manner in which it conducts operations and the weaponry and ambush and attack tactics it employs in jungle warfare.

Doubtlessly, Raghupathi’s revelations have handed rival armies studying India’s SF modus operandi a juicy operational lollipop.

It is also a treat which no self-respecting SF anywhere in the world would disclose, and that too, to a newspaper.

“I am proud that I was part of this prestigious operation that killed the northeastern insurgents. It was a special cross-border operation” Raghupati of Mandekolu village of Sullia Taluk in southern Karnataka boastfully told the Deccan Chronicle over the weekend.

He even posed for a picture for the newspaper, in his battle fatigues, claiming that the two raiding teams, of which he was a member, killed 50 insurgents.

“This was not my first Operation (against militants in the northeast)” said the Subedar, who joined the Parachute Regiment in 1996 and is descended from a long line of soldiers.

“I was part of several such operations including Operation Loktak”, he said, unmindful of divulging, what in any other army would have been highly classified information, and revealing which, would almost certainly result in a court martial.

Loktuk was a six-day operation launched by some 2,000 Indian Army soldiers around a lake of the same name some 40km from Manipur’s capital Imphal in March 1999, ostensibly to ‘flush out’ insurgents from the area.

The army, which was joined by the paramilitaries and local Manipur police units, was accused of torturing, dehumanizing the local population through forced labour and arbitrarily arresting scores locals by the Manipur Committee on Human Rights.

No action was initiated against any security forces personnel provided immunity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Raghupathi provides a precise account of the raid inside Myanmar, executed by two assault teams.

One was the 57-member 21 Parachute Regiment (SF) unit from Nagaland and the other cobbled together locally in Manipur, possibly comprising Assam Rifles personnel.

The mission Raghupathi said was ‘challenging’, as they had to walk through thick jungle on the night of June 8 and the early hours of the following day, for about 30km to the Myanmar border, which they crossed without being noticed by the enemy.

Earlier, in another unpardonable revelatory detail, the Subedar said the raiding party ‘went through the motions of joining the Assam Rifles team that left to (for) Teknyo village on the morning of June 6, ostensibly to a medical camp”.

Casually, the SF soldier had even let slip even the cover the raiding party had employed.

Raghupathi then goes onto to state that a Myanmarese informant provided the raiding parties exacter details of their objective.

It’s quite possible that this informant, not too difficult to locate in the region, too could become a target if he has not already.

After walking through the jungle for almost 48 hours, the 21 Parachute Regiment assault team encircled the 15-hut enemy camp around 3.30 am on June 8 and opened fire for 15-20 minutes, Raghupathi said.

Once more, in contravention of all security procedures the Subedar went on to state that they used ‘guns, rocket launchers and explosives”, contravening a SF cardinal rule of never revealing their assets.

“All the terrorists were killed and their huts destroyed by our Indian commandoes” he told the Chronicle, adding that they caught them completely by surprise in the ambush.

Some militants who tried to fire were killed before they could pull the trigger, the Subedar said.

“Within minutes of laying waste the camp, we retraced our steps and embarked on the trek back on foot ” he stated.

And though the return journey was arduous, riddled with abrasions from thick undergrowth and wounds inflicted by leeches, nothing mattered to the exultant commandoes.

“We had the satisfaction of flushing out the militants who killed our brothers in Manipur” the SF soldier said.

“We are proud of having been part of the first permitted cross-border operations” Raghupathi proudly concluded, confirming what junior information minister Raghuvendra Singh Rathore had told numerous television news channels last week, but what the Myanmar government had denied.

It is, however, not known whether Raghupathi’s account to the Chronicle was cleared or not by the Indian Army.

Efforts by The Citizen contact the army authorities in Bangalore and Delhi, proved futile.

But either way it’s a travesty of all known SF and covert operation procedures.

For if it did have the army’s approval, it is shocking especially as the apolitical force makes a virtue of observing secrecy in all such missions.

This only leads to the conclusion, that to please its political masters, eager to prop up their flagging fortunes, the army embarked on a public relations exercise by highlighting the raid.

And, conversely if Subedar Raghupathi was not granted permission to talk to the Chronicle, then the obvious inference is that discipline in the army, has ceased to exist; vainglorious soldiers can boast freely about their covert missions.

According to standard military procedure, all SF around the world are not permitted to even inform their families of their location-static or operational-leave alone provide detailed accounts to newspapers and the media of sensitive missions.

For decades the Indian Army behaved similarly, its SF raids erring on the side of discretion, letting their many covert raids do the talking.

After all fear-and deterrence, its twin-is best conveyed quietly, not by crass chest thumping which only dilutes the effect, turning all tactical or strategic gain into a mockery.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party administration thinks little even before identifying the unit involved in the raid.

This revelation by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) does not only jeopardize the safety of its serving and retired personnel-not difficult to detect in India-but also of their families, even rendering the government criminally culpable.

To paraphrase American pop star Stevie Wonder whenever anyone begins thinking they are number one—that’s when they begin to go nowhere.

Government sympathisers in the media justify publicizing the raids on grounds that it was subtly aimed at sending out a wider message to the neighbourhood ie Pakistan.

Even Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar declared as much at a seminar in New Delhi last week when he declared that the Myanmar operation had altered India’s security mindset.

“If the thinking pattern changes, lots of things change” Parrikar stated.

“You have seen for the past 2-3 days how a simple action againstinsurgents has changed the mindset of the full security scenario in the country, he added.

Really, Mr Defence Minister? Are Pakistan and China listening, fearfully?