Unlike Israel, India has not worn its successes in secret missions on its sleeves
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the man believed to be heading Iran’s top secret nuclear weapons mission, was ambushed and killed by a supposedly Israeli hit squad on Friday on the outskirts of Tehran. Some reports said the scientist was on his way to meet a lover.
Fakhrizadeh had been on Israel’s target for many years, and it is inevitable that his movements, habits and relations were being stalked for a very long time before the execution button was pressed.
Covert overseas assassinations by Israeli secret service Mossad – especially its elite, ruthless killing unit Kidon – are now legendary. Israel’s enemies and certain human rights groups have railed against it. But internationally, there is also widespread admiration for Israel’s pluck. A small nation, surrounded by much larger enemies ideologically committed to destroy it, is justified in employing such methods, many feel.
This admiration for Israel has spawned book after book, movies, and now a spate of web series like Fauda. The series Fauda has been so popular in India that it is set for an Indian remake.
But is India as a democracy ready to publicly embrace covert action by our intelligence forces abroad? Fed for seven decades Gandhian non-violence and Nehruvian accommodativeness, India has started celebrating surgical strikes and covert action only after Narendra Modi’s rise to power.
I once privately asked a former Intelligence Bureau chief whether India had overseas hit squads and if yes, shouldn’t the citizens be told about their ops later without compromising their identity?
He said that as a culture, India was perhaps still not ready to celebrate covert missions of its faceless national heroes working as intelligence agents. On whether India carries out such covert hits, he just enigmatically smiled. I rested the case.
While officially it will be denied, sources say R&AW and the Intelligence Bureau “neutralised” more than a dozen terrorists and enemies of the nation in just two years between 2015 and 2017. Many more followed. Just like Fakhrizadeh, they have been tracked for months before being trapped. In some cases, women operatives played crucial roles.
But unlike Israel, India has not worn its successes in secret missions on its sleeves. There is a Gandhian argument that such action should not take place in the first place; that we should follow the doctrine of turning the other cheek.
Then there one school of thought that secret ops should remain secret forever. What will bragging about those achieve?
There is a compelling case for showcasing a nation’s finest secret operations.
First, it plants self-doubt in the enemy and demoralises it. Hostile forces think several times before acting against Israel or US or Russia simply because of the widely advertised efficiency of their spy agencies.
Second, the stories of extreme courage and sacrifice of secret agents living lonely, dangerous lives inspires nationalism across generations, makes the youth aware of how precious freedom and democracy is.
And third, India must unlock its greatest ancient treasure – the wisdom of the Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagwad Gita – and get over the guilt of ruthlessly defending its values.
Krishna convinces Arjun that war is his sacred duty, even if it means killing his own relatives. Fighting for dharma, or what is righteous and against terrible injustice, overrides even the core Hindu ethos of non-violence if citizens’ freedom, justice and way of life are in danger from enemies.
In that sense, what a Mossad killer squad is believed to have done at Damavand near Tehran on Friday was their dharma. They are defending their land against a nation ruled by fanatical ayatollahs just 2,000 km away.
Krishna would have approved. And so do an increasing number of people who value the freedom and sovereignty of this great land.
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