New Delhi: A crack team of about 70 commandos from 21 Para of the Indian Army carried out the surgical strike inside Myanmar territory in the thick of the night that killed 38 insurgents belonging to NSCN(K) and KYKL militant groups on Tuesday.
The commandos, equipped with assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades and night vision goggles, were divided into two groups after they slithered down from Dhruv helicopters just inside the Indian territory near the border with Myanmar.
Once divided, the commandos of the Army's special forces headed for two camps being run by NSCN(K) and KYKL, believed to be responsible for the deadly ambush on June 4 which killed 18 soldiers and wounded 11 others. The teams trekked through the thick jungles for at least five kilometers before they reached the training camps.
"Each of the two teams were further divided into two sub-groups. While one was responsible for the direct assault, the second formed an outer ring to prevent any of insurgents from running and escaping," security sources said. The actual operation (hitting the camp and destroying it) took about 40 minutes. Not only did the commandos kill those present at the camps in gun fight, during which rocket launchers were also used, one of the camp was also set afire.
Sources said thermal imagery was also used to track the operation. They maintained that the Myanmarese authorities were kept in the loop. Mi-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force were put on standby, ready to be pressed into service to evacuate the commandos in case anything went wrong.
"The operation was carried out based on specific and very accurate intelligence" and the operation was overseen by General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the Dimapur-based 3 Corps Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, the sources said. Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, who had postponed his trip to UK for the operation, was coordinating from the Army headquarters.
The decision to go in for a hot pursuit was taken just hours after the ambush on June 4 in a meeting that was chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Suhag and others. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given the final clearance and the operation was coordinated by Doval. Sources said that the Army will undertake more such operations in the region if required.
Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh said India had followed the 'Doctrine of Hot Pursuit' as per international law. "According to this if something wrong has happened with you and if you cross the border to catch the person, then the international law allows it. Under the 'Doctrine of Hot Pursuit', we followed them and destroyed their camps at two places," he said and stressed that Myanmar was also kept in the loop.
21 Para is attached to the 3 Corps, under whose area of operation Manipur and Nagaland lies. Para Commandos are a special forces unit of the Indian Army mandated with missions such as direct action, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, counter-proliferation, counter-insurgency, seek and destroy and personnel recovery.
The Army boasts of 8 Battalion of Special forces. In addition to that, they have 3 other Battalion of special forces who are air borne. Because of its specified role, the personnel of the special forces needs to be kept at optimum level of operational efficiency and physical fitness. "It is mostly voluntary. Each soldier, drawn from different Regiments, stays in the special forces as long as he is physically fit as per the required parameters," sources said.
They added that unlike normal soldiers who are tasked with various duties, commandos of the special forces undergo training throughout the year. "At times, they might be used only thrice a year. But they still undergo training round the year. Unlike a normal soldier, a special forces' commando is capable of undertaking a number of activities like firing from both hands, undertaking an operation without sleep for three days, disarming an IED among others," the sources said.
The commandos should be comparatively young, physically fit and mentally robust, intelligent, innovative and highly motivated so as to successfully accomplish the assigned operational tasks.
The 2 PARA (airborne) carried out India's first airborne assault operation in Bangladesh during the 1971 War against Pakistan to capture Poongli Bridge in Mymensingh District near Dhaka.
Subsequently they were the first unit to enter Dhaka. For this action 2 PARA were given the Battle Honour of Poongli Bridge and Theater Honour Dhaka.