Ajit Doval: Modi’s Chanakya
Just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumes office after a blitzkrieg electoral offensive that saw Congress and its allies vanquished as never before, the dishonest and inefficient bureaucrats in the 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 would perhaps be remembered as the most unheard and unseen Prime Minister of India. Whereas there would be many brains of excellence in the Modi Team, India’s new National Security Advisor (NSA), Ajit Doval distinguishes himself from the rest in many ways. His appointment as India’s NSA sends a clear signal—nationally and internationally. It is a pointer to the Modi Sarkar’s resolve to free India from the internal and external anxieties so as to create an environment of peace and progress on which the idea of ‘good governance and development for all’ shall flourish.
Ajit Doval is a man of exceptionally high IQ and uncanny abilities. He is doer, a fighter and achiever who has ventured and accomplished missions where few would dare. And it is not just ‘one of’ type of successes in his case. 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. NSG was flown in at night to flush out the terrorists from the Golden Temple Complex at Amritsar in May 1988. There were conflicting reports about the number and identities of terrorists inside the Golden Temple complex. There was no clarity as to what weapons they had and how many innocent 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 go, it was suddenly cancelled. “Tiger for Two, Billa cancelled. 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 even before it took 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 my position atop 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 now imposed upon us from Delhi. Officers were now required to tell their Hit commandos—equipped with high precision shooting lethal weapons and trained to kill—to shoot but not kill! When Ajit 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 all that 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 Golden Temple 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. In utter disregard to personal safety, he moved around all over 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 for their aid.
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?”
After listening to our problem silently, Ajit Doval smiled and looked around. His affable countenance, cool glance 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 into a success that was 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 ‘Kirti Chakra’ (a peacetime equivalent of the second highest military award ‘Mahavir Chakra).
Doval’s idea of befriending and converting terrorists in J&K into counter-terrorists was another unorthodox masterstroke that was initially criticised but proved to be a very effective measure in suppressing the rising tide of militancy there.
Op Black Thunder is but one of a long trail of incredible feats accomplished by Ajit 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 into 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 Lal Denga who himself attributed his defeat to Ajit Doval’s shrewd moves. His idea of befriending and converting terrorists in J&K into counter-terrorists was another unorthodox masterstroke that was initially criticised but proved to be a very effective measure in suppressing the rising tide of militancy there. Kuka Parray and his pro-India outfit Ikhwan-ul-Muslemoon were borne of this out of the box strategy launched by Ajit Doval in the terror torn state. 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 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 Negotiatorto 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 connivance of Taliban.
In his retired years, Ajit Doval has led a very fulfilling engagement as founder Director of Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi where you would find him always surrounded by a galaxy of research scholars, writers, retired bureaucrats, defence officers, diplomats—foreign and Indians alike. Workshops, Seminars, panel discussions, book launches and presentations are the routine activities at this Think Tank. 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 immersion from where participants emerge adding a new dimension to their knowledge.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a man with vision and dreams for a prosperous, 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. Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor of India, is likewise no run-of-the-mill officer. He comes packed with abilities to conceptualise strategies and plans that shall realise the Prime Minister’s dreams and national goals. Undoubtedly, India is in safe hands on its way to a glorious future.
By Karan Kharb
(Indian Defence Review)