Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lessons from Operation Rahat

As the MEA-led Operation Rahat, involving the Indian Navy, Air Force and state-run Air India, to evacuate Indians from war-torn Yemen comes to a close, some analysis is due. The mission was a massive success for the Indian Government, particular the team of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her deputy, Gen (Retd.) VK Singh. And it was a success in many different ways.

First, politically, it inadvertently turned into a slugfest between the Modi-hating so-called mainstream media and the vast constituency that brought the BJP to power in the Modi wave of 2014. Although this liberal media has tried to attack the Prime Minister previously in the Pakistan Terror Boar incident, where it received some lukewarm support, it saw a massive resistance this time around, with the scenes of thousands of Indians and also close to a thousands foreigners from 41 different nations being rescued by the armed forces leading to a severe backlash against the media for trying to spin this against the Prime Minister and his government once again. The net political dividend can be summed up by one word - Presstitutes - that brings back the 'news traders' jibe that Modi the campaigner had made to great effect. The English media today stands thoroughly discredited and nobody believes what they say. Everybody believes they are thoroughly compromised and push an agenda instead of reporting the news. This is exactly what Modi would want.

Second, and more importantly, is the strategic impact of this operation. This was the largest operation of its kind by the Indian armed forces, a fact that was repeated all over the world (except, obviously, by the Indian media). For the first time since the 1988, when India intervened in the Maldives to successfully defend the government there, India became a net security provider for the people of the subcontinent. Of course, that is not to say that India fought on one side - that would have been silly, for this is not our war - but in a situation of war, the Indian armed forces set a goal for themselves, put together a plan that combined military preparedness as well as the highest level of diplomacy and saw it through to a level of success that led to the envy of even the mighty United States. This is no less than actually fighting in a war - one away from the mainland, at that.

And last is the military impact. Operation Raahat clearly demonstrated that the Indian Navy is almost at the blue-water threshhold, but not there yet. This mission was only possible due to a veritable naval base being established temporarily in Djibouti, which could act as a common point to integrate supply lines. No doubt, this was a successful mission conducted far away from the mainland, but it did require a base to be established on land, which puts it just below the blue-water threshold. It is however, only a matter of time before a carrier task force replaces the need for a land-based command, after which true blue-water capability will be achieved. And that time is not very far.

Finally, it is apparent that the great NATO powers have taken note of the fact that both India and China successfully carried out rescue missions while many of the member-countries, most notably the US, did not. If there was ever a moment that showed just where power has moved in the world, this is it.  

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