National Security Pawns: PM’s Shocking Statements for Short-Term Political Advantage

National security is compromised for political advantage. Controversial PM statements spark concerns about prioritising narrow gains over the nation's safety.

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Lt Col Manoj K Channan
Lt Col Manoj K Channan
Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd) served in the Indian Army, Armoured Corps, 65 Armoured Regiment, 27 August 83- 07 April 2007. Operational experience in the Indian Army includes Sri Lanka – OP PAWAN, Nagaland and Manipur – OP HIFAZAT, and Bhalra - Bhaderwah, District Doda Jammu and Kashmir, including setting up of a counter-insurgency school – OP RAKSHAK. He regularly contributes to Defence and Security issues in the Financial Express online, Defence and Strategy, Fauji India Magazine and Salute Magazine. *Views are personal.

I am deeply disturbed by some of the statements made by the highest in the land on matters of national securities for narrow political gains.

For example, take the PM’s statement on the use of IAF in Aizawl. The Indian State, whoever was in power, never failed to use force when the nation’s integrity was involved. The iron fist was there, velvet glove or not. The Naga rebels shot down a Dakota aircraft on August 26, 1960. These issues are better left unsaid, whatever the narrow political compulsions. The short video clip is enclosed.

The NAGA hostiles encircled Purr, an isolated post, some 166 km from Kohima post, with about 500 men, of whom 125 were armed with three light machine guns and rifles of sorts and the rest with traditional weapons such as spears, bows and arrows and darts (single-edged swords). They opened fire early in the morning of August 25, 1960, and kept it up throughout the day. They had destroyed the three bridges on the Tizu and placed 20 men on each to prevent reinforcement from reaching the post, which approximately 100 men occupied. The firing continued the next day when they came within a few yards of the post but withdrew when fired upon by the post’s defenders. In the afternoon of the next day, two Dakotas dropped supplies, which fell into the hands of the hostiles.

The Dakotas flew very low, and one of them crash-landed. The ill-fated Dakota was hit by ground fire by the hostiles. It was piloted by Flight Lieutenant Anand Singha and had a crew of eight airmen. The hostiles captured the pilot and the crew and were taken to their camp, where they were treated well. The defenders fought bravely till reinforcement from the 4 Sikh Light Infantry arrived. Early on August 28, five IAF fighters strafed the hostile positions inflicting heavy casualties, which forced them to lift the siege.

The Mizo National Front (MNF), an insurgent outfit, declared independence from India in the early hours of March 1, 1966. Following this declaration, MNF rebels launched coordinated attacks on the Indian Army and paramilitary installations throughout the Lushai Hills (the present-day state of Mizoram).

In the wee hours of March 1, 1966, MNF rebels attacked the district treasury at Aizawl and camps of Police and security forces at Lunglei and Champhai. The MNF captured these two towns. The rebels attacked the Assam Rifles battalion headquarters at Aizawl, and an Assam Rifles patrol party was ambushed in the Chanmari area of Aizawl (the present state capital) on the night of March 3, resulting in the deaths of five jawans of the paramilitary force.

 MNF chief Laldenga had established contact with Pakistan, and the latter had been supplying arms and other equipment to the MNF, besides providing safe havens in East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) to the rebels.

MNF rebels started attacking government installations and the Assam Rifles battalion in Aizawl. But Assam Rifles jawans, though surprised, held out for three days. They were running short of ammunition and made desperate appeals to rush reinforcements. On March 4, it appeared that the besieged Assam Rifles battalion headquarters would fall to the rebels and ‘Operation Jericho’ would become successful.

The security forces stationed in the Mizo Hills district included the 1st Battalion, Assam Rifles (1 AR) headquartered at Aizawl, the 5th Battalion, Border Security Force (5 BSF) and the local Police. On the night of 28 February/1 March 1966, the MNF launched a series of simultaneous attacks on the 1 AR garrisons at Aizawl, Lunglei and Champhai and the 5 BSF posts at Chawngte, Demagiri, Hnahlan, Marpara, Tipaimukh, Tuipang, Tuipuibari, Vaphai and Vaseitlang.

On March 1 1966, the insurgents attacked the telephone exchange at Aizawl. An hour later, attacked the Aizawl District Treasury and looted money, arms and .303 ammunition. Within a few hours, the insurgents took control of all the important centres of the Mizo district, paralysing the civil administration. They also seized all the vehicles in the town. The law and order situation went beyond the control of the local Police and the small units of AR posted in the district.T S Gill, the Deputy Commissioner of the Mizo district, took shelter in the AR headquarters. The insurgents attacked the 1 AR headquarters in Aizawl unsuccessfully.

On March 2, the insurgents ambushed a patrol of 1 AR, and inflicted heavy casualties on them. Two helicopters with reserves, ammunition and water sent by the Government to help the AR men could not land due to constant firing by the insurgents. Some of the air drops meant for the riflemen fell into the hands of MNF members.

The same day, the insurgents released all the prisoners from the Aizawl jail who looted the non-Mizos (“Vai” s) shops and burned several huts in the Aizawl bazaar. Due to the AR’s refusal to surrender, the victory parade proposed to be held on March 2 was postponed to March 10.

There was also little chance of airdropping forces since the rebels had overrun most parts of Lushai Hills by then. The only option was to send in IAF fighters to bomb Aizawl and other places where the rebels were concentrated in.

 IAF fighters–Hunters and Toofanis–were despatched, mainly from the IAF’s base in Kumbhirgram in nearby Barak Valley (Assam), to bomb over four days from March 5. The death toll of civilians stood only at 15.

IAF Dakota shot down by the Naga Army. Image – Social Media

Ground operations

 HQ Eastern Command oversaw the operations under Lt. Gen. Sam Manekshaw. The local responsibility for the army operations was given to 101 Communication Zone under that mercurial soldier Maj Gen Sagat Singh. 311 (Independent) Infantry Brigade was located at that point of time in Silchar. An additional formation, 61 Mountain Brigade (under Brig. R.Z. Kabraji) was moved from Agartala to Aizawl. The leading battalion of 61 Mountain Brigade, the 8th battalion, Sikh Regiment (8 Sikh) advanced from Silchar into the disturbed area on March 3. The forces could reach Aizawl only on March 6 due to the roadblocks caused by the militants. On March 7, they relieved the besieged AR garrison at Aizawl. On March 8, the 2nd battalion, 11 Gorkha Rifles (2/11 GR), moved towards Champhai and the 3rd battalion, Bihar Regiment (3 Bihar), towards Lunglei. By March 15, all 61 Brigade, with its four battalions and supporting arms and services, had moved into Mizoram and, by the end of the month, had regained control of Mizoram.

During Operation Sarp Vinash conducted in Hill Kaka Bowl in Surankote, J & K between April and May 2003, Gen Hardy Lidder breached the unstated ban the Army has placed on the use of air power in counter-terrorism operations. Apart from air-to-ground missiles, Cheetah helicopters fitted with heavy machine guns were used on several occasions.

If you ask, what are the success stories of CI Ops in India? There are not many success stories in the world. The first name that comes up is Laldenga Accord. Mizoram’s problem was solved. How?

In 1986, the Indian Parliament approved the 53rd amendment to the Indian Constitution, which permitted the State of Mizoram to become India’s 23rd state on February 20, 1987. A series of discussions were held with Laldenga, and settlements on various issues happened. According to an entry on the South Asia Terrorism Portal under the ‘Mizoram Accord 1986’, the MNF was asked to “bring out all underground personnel with their arms, ammunitions to ensure their return to civil life, to abjure violence and help in the process of restoration of normalcy”.

In return, the Government promised to “initiate measures to confer Statehood on the Union Territory of Mizoram”.

In accordance with Section 6 of the North Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act of 1971, Mizoram’s territory will consist of the specified territory. It was also stated that no act of Parliament pertaining to the religion or social practises of the Mizos, Mizo customary law or procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions based on Mizo customary law, and land ownership and transfer shall apply to the state of Mizoram unless the Legislative Assembly of Mizoram decides otherwise by resolution.

The peace agreement ended the Mizoram insurgency in 1986, and the state of Mizoram was formed in 1987.

Now in the Parliament Laldenga Accord is being raised.

Assam Rifles, known as Sentinels of the Northeast, is the oldest PMF and NOT CAPF with a chequered history. Men from AR come from all over India. It is officered by Indian Army. The Police of the state ruled by the CM of the ruling party registers a FIR against personnel of AR. AR comes under MHA, headed by all powerful HM.

The Assam Rifles personnel deployed at the Moirang Lamkhai checkpoint in Manipur’s Bishnupur have been replaced by Police and CRPF personnel following an order by the Manipur government. L Kailun, the Additional DG of Police (Law and Order) said, “the checkpoint at Moirang Lamkhai on the Bishnupur to Kangvai Road shall be manned by the civil police and 128 Bn CRPF in place of 9 AR with immediate effect and until further orders”.

Tomorrow the last bastion of the state, the Indian Army, may be told to withdraw from its place on popular demand.

Alister Mclean said, “Preposterous”!

Some sanity must prevail. These are extremely sensitive issues. Better to let sleeping dogs lie.

PM Indira Gandhi made a huge mistake by launching Op Blue Star. Int agencies and armed forces were drastically wrong in their assessments. PM paid for with her life. Years later, the Punjab problem was resolved. 

It does not matter who was in charge. Great success story.

But if you see the video of Khalistanis in action in Canada, the UK, and Australia, notwithstanding Pakistan’s support, some sort of fundamentalism exists. There are religious sensitive issues that have to be handled with care. AAP comes to power, opening Pandora’s Box, again with narrow political gain.

 Things happen. I was in Punjab in 1991 when the election was held. What was the percentage of voting? I was in Baramulla when is 94-95 polling was done. Under real terrorist threats, very few people would like to vote and risk life.

Political leadership must show maturity, sagacity and accommodation to resolve the issues.

The best possible way is to make the rebel or insurgent groups come to the mainstream. Take part in the election process. Once they get the addiction to power, the system takes care of itself. That is how AASU/AGP came to power, Laldenga came to power and Assam, Mizoram was resolved. There is no point in raising these issues again.

Gen Johny Mukherjee, as GOC 2 Mtn Div, raided the HQ of Naga rebels in a remote hilltop and got the top leadership. Thereafter negotiation took place, and the Naga Accord succeeded for long. Armed Forces can only shape the situation. Thereafter it is the politician and not the “Intelligent” people who have to take action.

The govt, immediately after coming to power on 3 August 2015, signed, The Naga Peace Accord. The document is not in the public domain. Eight Years have gone by. Mr. Ravi, the Intelligent man, is still hangings around as Governor. What has happened? Why are we not able to hold an election in J&K?

These are complex, sensitive issues. The way earlier accords are being talked about will cause immense harm.

All the States of Eastern India are riddled with several agitations for separate statehood based on historic ethnic identities. Their resolution is not simple.

Indian North East was peaceful. Today Mizoram is threatening to expel Assamese and vice Versa. Manipur is on fire. The present dispensation rules Mizoram, Manipur, and Assam. This can quickly go out of control.

Mizoram’s sole MNF Rajya Sabha MP is an NDA party member criticised HM for calling Manipuri tribal people Myanmar nationals in Parliament. The MP Vanlalvere said, “I am a tribal from Mizoram. We are not foreigners, and we are not Myanmarese Nationals. We are Indian. We are in North East. Hundreds of years before India become Independent.”

The fact that an MMF parliamentarian supporting the BJP led NDA has to make a statement like this is disturbing.

We require somebody to tell the PM and HM in no uncertain terms that National Security issues should not be compromised for narrow political gain.

 During the emergency, all the powerful people wanted to use Indian Army. Gen Tappy Raina firmly told them to lay off. IA is not going to take part in any emergency related activities.

Do you know anybody who can tell the PM and RM not to mix up national security issues? The way one Army Chief was selected by superseding two officers and promoting a retired three star officer as CDS as they did not find a suitable four star general or equivalent does not auger much hope.

Let’s hope for the best. Jai Ho


  1. The Mizo rebellion in 1966 was aided and encouraged by the Pakistani Military Intelligence. After 1971 War, the safe sanctuary of Chittagong Hill Tracts was no more available to the Mizo rebels. India also convinced the Burmese Army to tighten the screws on the Chin Liberation Army who were giving valuable aid to the Mizo rebels, who were their kith and kin. The Mizo rebels were the hardest insurgents ever faced by the Indian Army. But Mrs Gandhi’s sagacity and generous attitude towards all Border people won over the MNF by forcing a rethink. Today there is so much development in Mizoram, as the Mizo people by nature do not tolerate dishonesty and corruption.


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