WITH Prime Minister NarendraModi assuming office after a blitzkrieg electoral offensive that saw the Congress and its allies vanquished as never before, the dishonest and inefficient bureaucrats in South and North Blocks are scurrying for cover. At the same time, there are officers of unimpeachable integrity and enormous potential who were thus far ignored by a scam-ridden, dysfunctional regime headed by a gentleman who will perhaps be remembered as the most unheard and unseen Prime Minister of India. Whereas there will be many brains of excellence in the Modi Team, India’s new National Security Adviser (NSA),AjitDoval, distinguishes himself from the rest in many ways. His appointment as India’s NSA sends a clearsignal—nationally and internationally. It is a pointer to the Modi government’s resolve to free India from the internal and external anxieties so as to create an environment of peace and progress in which the idea of ‘good governance and development for all’ can flourish.
Doval is a man of exceptionally high IQ and uncanny abilities. He is a doer, a fighter and an achiever who has ventured into and accomplished missions where few would dare. The chain of his incredible success stories runs through some of the most dangerous and unlikely situations. Here is one incident that explains how he stunned us by giving a simple solution to a complex problem fraught with far-reaching ramifications. The National Security Guard (NSG) was flown in at night to flush out terrorists from the Golden Temple Complex at Amritsar in May 1988. There were conflicting reports about the number and identities of terrorists inside the complex. There was no clarity as to what weapons they had and how many civilians were inside the premises. Our initial brief from the local police and State administration left crucial questions unanswered. This irked us. Nevertheless, operational plans were drawn up and by late night we were readying to storm the complex. Just as the assault was about to begin, it was suddenly cancelled. “Tiger for Two, Billacancelled. Stand down and get back to your cordon positions,” Tiger (the Group Commander) ordered the assault squadron commander. Billa was the code word to signal ‘launch’ of Phase I of the operation. The operation was called off because the Force Commander had received a rider from the Home Ministry: “No civilian casualties and damage to buildings will be accepted!”
Back to our position atop the Temple View Hotel overlooking the Parikrama, we went into a huddle. All of us were eager to finish the operation as soon as possible and did not relish these restrictions being imposed upon us from Delhi. Officers were now required to tell their hit commandos—trained to kill and equipped with high-precision lethal weapons—to shoot but not kill! When Doval arrived there, not everyone knew him. Only a select few of us knew about this super cop’s incredible role in this operation. He gave us a first-hand account of what was going on inside the Golden Temple Complex—the terrorists, sevadars, civilians, women and children; their falling morale, waning resistance, duels over options to surrender or fight and die and so on. These were valuable inputs. He had been inside the complex, rubbing shoulders with the most dreaded terrorists like Surjit Singh Penta, Karaj Singh Thande, Bhag Singh, Chanchal Singh (all self-styled ‘Lt Generals’ of KCF) and Gurjit Singh, AISSF leader. With utter disregard for personal safety, he moved around the complex even as bullets were raining from all directions. Much later, we learnt that he had disguised himself as an agent of ISI sent to aid them.
After explaining the situation, the task and the restrictions imposed from top, we sought his views. He heard our predicament attentively. “Now, tell us”, the Force Commander asked him, “How the hell can such an operation be accomplished without collateral damage?” Doval smiled and looked around. His affable countenance and naughty smile indicated he had something funny to say—and he did. He offered a solution that appeared too simple to be operationally effective. What would stun everyone later, however, was not the spectacle of battle, but the simple, subtle tactics that culminated in a success lauded all over the world. Not only did we compel all the terrorists to surrender, but also ensured zero collateral damage. There was no casualty or injury to any commando either. Doval became the first IPS officer to be honoured with the Kirti Chakra (a peacetime equivalent of the second highest military award, the Mahavir Chakra).
Operation Black Thunder is but one of a long trail of incredible feats accomplished by Doval. Idiosyncratically propelled from within, he has frequently endangered himself, going beyond the call of duty and jumping into the jaws of death. So often he has infiltrated the core of militant organisations and delivered crippling blows to disintegrate them. His role in disintegrating the Mizo National Front (MNF) Army humbled the ferocious LalDenga, who attributed his defeat to Doval’s shrewd moves.
His idea of befriending and converting terrorists in J&K into counter-terrorists was another unorthodox master stroke that was initially criticised but proved to be a very effective measure in suppressing the rising tide of militancy there.KukaParrey and his pro-India outfit—Ikhwan-ul-Muslemoon—were born of this out-of-the-box strategy.Often described as a super spy, he does not reveal all he has been through, including the years he spent in Pakistan. The humility and the ethical code he has followed all through will perhaps never allow us to peep deeper into all the corners of his secret world.
Thanks to his diplomatic proficiency and deft crisis-handling abilities, India has often retrieved many a critical situation from the verge of catastrophe. He was the chief negotiator assigned to rescue the hostages aboard Indian Airlines flight IC 814 that was hijacked to Kandahar in December 1999. His deft negotiating skills resulted in safe return of the aircraft and the hostages from the clutches of hijackers enjoying the connivance of the Taliban.
AFTER his retirement, Doval has led a fulfilling time as the founder-Director of the Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi, where you will find him surrounded by a galaxy of research scholars, writers, and retired bureaucrats, defence officers and diplomats, foreign and Indians alike. Workshops, seminars, panel discussions, book launches and presentations are the routine activities of this thinktank.
A voracious reader, thinker and analyst himself, Doval is a storehouse of knowledge. His personal library at home would be envied even by academic institutions. To hear him speak on subjects as diverse as national security, international relations, socio-religious matters, trade and commerce, economy, energy, development and so on, is always an enriching experience.
Prime Minister NarendraModi is a man with vision and dreams for a prosperous and powerful Bharat. He is no run-of-the-mill politician. He has the capacity to visualise a distant lofty future and the will to achieve it. Doval, the National Security Adviser of India, is likewise no run-of-the-mill officer. He has the abilities to conceptualise strategies and plans that will realise the Prime Minister’s dreams and national goals. Undoubtedly, India is in safe hands and on its way to a glorious future.
The writer is a military veteran, author and social activist.