In a big development, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval has been re-appointed at the crucial post. He has also been given a Cabinet rank in recognition of his contribution towards the national security domain. According to a Personnel Ministry order, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved his re-appointment as the NSA with effect from May 31, 2019. Interestingly, this is for the first time that an NSA has been given Cabinet rank. During his first tenure as the NSA, Doval emerged as the man behind a radical shift in India’s national security policy.
Doval, a 1968-batch IPS officer is known as a master spy in the intelligence circles. He played a crucial role in several major operations. Doval served for a few years in uniform followed by a long career of 33 years as an intelligence officer across sensitive locations such as the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. In an illustrious career in intelligence operations, he had led from the front on several occasions. Considered a superspy, Doval had shown his worth way back in 1986 itself. As a field agent, he had successfully combated insurgency in the Northeast. In an undercover operation, he was instrumental in the defection of 6 out of 7 commanders of Laldenga’s outfit to the Indian cause. What shows his prowess in intelligence operations is his role in connection with the Operation Black Thunder in 1988. At that time, he had disguised as a rickshaw-puller in Amritsar and had sneaked into the Golden Temple before the operation. He was also able to convince that he was an ISI agent out there to help them. It is believed that he was also able to engineer infighting within the militants.
During his term as an NSA, India witnessed a crucial turn in the way it handled the challenge to national security. He was right on the money from the word go. Ajit Doval has been one of the faces behind India’s aggressive policy at Pakistan border. It was reported that on October 7, 2014, Doval had summoned the BSF Director General and had blatantly told him bluntly to ‘fire at will’ with ‘full force’ even at the slightest of provocations from Pakistan. And that “offensive defensive” strategy of Ajit Doval has paid off in a big way. Ever since, the appointment of Doval as the NSA, India’s security policy has seen an unprecedented shift. He has supported a policy that is aggressive against the hostile neighbours. It was due to Doval’s efforts that Pakistan was given a loud and clear message. that it should be prepared to bleed more if it continues the proxy war against India. As per an official, “What has changed is that political statements by India condemning Pakistan’s activities and regular aggression are not deciding how a jawan would react on the ground. BSF and army are now not sitting ducks when they are being fired upon. They have been told to fire at will if they are being fired at.”
From growing above the stupid ‘talks are a solution to everything’ syndrome, thanks to Mr. Doval, we have now joined the ranks of the rare nations, who follow the offensive defence policy, i.e. ‘Fire One, And We’ll Forget Our Count of Fire’! Ajit Doval has ensured that India changed the policy of initiating dialogue after Pakistan carries out a terror attack. Doval has ensured that India pre-empts Pakistani aggression and nips them in the bud.
Doval’s tenure was indeed eventful with several challenges coming up during the last five years. However, Doval has proved his worth every single time. He was the man behind the successful conduct of several military operations which turned out to be landmark events in India’s national security policy. In 2015, India carried out a massive surgical strike inside Myanmar. Doval is reported to have skipped a meeting to Bangladesh before the strike and camped in Manipur. He is also said to have made an on-ground assessment of the operation. The Indian Army Para Commandos had struck two militant camps in Myanmar. There were a total of 150 militants and heavy casualties were inflicted. As per sources, at least 50 militants were eliminated but the count could have been much higher, even as much as 100.
However, the Myanmar surgical strikes were only the tip of the iceberg. Throughout Doval’s tenure as the NSA, India would go on to witness several other mighty operations showcasing India’s aggressive policy to tackle cross-border terrorism. The 2016 Surgical Strikes during which the Indian Army Commandos crossed the LoC and struck terror launchpads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir marked a significant shift in the manner India handled Pakistan-based terrorism. As per sources, the strike was a result of Doval’s strategy of offensive defence. Therefore, Doval was clearly the man behind the highly successful pre-emptive strikes.
During his tenure, the Operation All Out aimed at giving the forces a free hand to go all out against terrorists was also kickstarted. NSA Ajit Doval reportedly decided against giving any importance to the separatist leaders in Kashmir. This was in line with the policy to deal aggressively with terror and secessionist elements. According to sources, “There was widespread criticism of our policy as people wanted to engage them in talks but due to the strict actions taken against the Hurriyat leadership, they stand exposed and are fast losing credibility among the youth in the Valley.”
Ajit Doval was also instrumental in resolving the Doklam stand-off. As per Nitin A. Gokhale’s book, ‘Securing India The Modi Way’, the foundation stone of the peaceful resolution to the Doklam Standoff was laid in a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping, away from the G-20 conference in Hamburg. According to the book, during a brief visit, PM Modi advised Xi that India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his Chinese Counterpart, State Counselor Yang Jiichi should take the lead in discussing a possible resolution to Doklam dispute.
15 days after this meeting, Doval went to Beijing for the proposed BRICS NSA meeting. Meanwhile, the Indian team held 38 meetings in China under the leadership of Ambassador Vijay Gokhale. The Indian team was getting clear instructions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NSA Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar. According to the book, ‘The instructions were given to the party that India will be unwavering on the field and rational in diplomacy.’ According to the book, after the strong preparation of India at the BRICS level, China could not afford the risk of India’s absence at the BRICS summit. Finally, China decided to stop the road construction work in the Doklam area, the main reason behind Doklam Standoff. Doval once again emerged as the man India depended on in order to tackle a challenge to national security.
Even towards the end of his tenure, Doval emerged as the mind behind another big operation, the Balakot airstrikes. The IAF struck deep into Pakistani territory destroying Jaish e Mohammed terror training camps and inflicting heavy casualties. This clearly displayed the ability and the intent of the national security apparatus to strike deep and hard in order to eliminate terrorism at its root.
Ajit Doval always maintained good relations and worked in tandem with the Home Ministry throughout his tenure as the NSA in the last 5 years. Although the post of NSA in the country was first created by the Vajpayee government, he is perhaps the first NSA of the country who has given more teeth to the post.
NSA Ajit Doval has been at the centre of a landmark shift in India’s national security policy. And he deserves to be credited for changing the way in which we tackle challenges to the national security. He has been very close to Prime Minister Modi in the past 5 years and always enjoyed his huge respect and trust and these are the very reasons why Doval has been re-appointed as the National Security Advisor in the new regime with the Cabinet rank.