Srinagar: With the killing of Hizbul chief commander Riyaz Naikoo on Wednesday, operation “Jackboot” conceived and supervised by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has claimed its last high-value target.

The operation codenamed “Jackboot” was conceived by Doval when the South Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Kulgam, Anantnag, and Shopian were claimed as ‘liberated areas’ by the militants.

Homegrown militancy had become a big problem for the security forces ... It had become the newfound romance for many educated, unemployed Kashmiri youth ... Local policemen were harassed, tortured and in many cases killed ...

The National Security Advisor had to take a tough call. But then, he was known to have “eyes and ears” in Kashmir, which were not even known to the top brass of security forces ...

THIS development points to a critical factor that has made a positive difference to national interest in the past 5-6 years. And the name of that factor is Mr. Ajit Doval, the dour National Security Advisor, who has demonstrated special abilities to tide over any crisis, any challenge the nation faces.

That Mr. Ajit Doval initiates action and busts the terrorists’ claim that certain Kashmir districts were ‘liberated areas’, is something critical to national interest. That operation “Jackboot” masterminded by Mr. Doval leads to the gunning down of a de facto Hizbul Mujahideen chief commander, also adds yet another special dimension to the manner in which the Government is handling the challenge of the moment.

But then, the past 5-6 years have seen many such moments when the Doval factor worked wonders -- across a wide range issues of national interest, so much so that the NSA came to be known as man of many seasons.

Just a few weeks ago, it was Mr. Doval who led teams of Delhi cops into the Tablighi Markaz complex in Nizamuddin to persuade the community leaders to discontinue the ongoing activity. The nation might not have realised the risk involved in that post midnight daring-do move, but those who knew things were anxious when the NSA moved into the Markaz complex with only a handful of men to accompany him.

When the Government decided to alter things in Kashmir, it chose Mr. Ajit Doval to spend a lot of time on the sly in the troubled State -- to know things, to arrange for safety valves, to build bonds with useful elements ...! The subsequent official moves stemmed from that critical observation by none other than Mr. Ajit Doval.

Having heard anecdotes of his adventures as a spy, as the chief of Intelligence, as a thinker on national security, on matters of strategic interests, the common people now believe that Mr. Ajit Doval is an NSA with a difference.

Of course, India has had some capable NSAs in the past. Each of those distinguished men made incomparable contributions to national security and strategic thought -- from which the nation benefitted vastly.

Yet the manner in which Mr. Doval works is something of a different category altogether. His proactive approach to issues, his practical application of his deep knowledge of things, his vast experience in the field make Mr. Doval an NSA with a difference.

Listen to his lectures on national security or national issues -- current ones or the ones delivered years ago -- and you will realise the penetrating intellectual capacity Mr. Ajit Doval possesses. And yet when he speaks, he speaks so matter-of-factly, only rarely displaying emotion, very rarely taking a partisan view, very rarely sounding political while talking about present issues or past problems. His judgement is impeccably non-partisan and unbiased.

When Mr. Doval was assigned to visit China to discuss issues with Beijing, the Chinese refused to talk to a person without ministerial status. Very promptly, the Government gave Mr. Doval the status of a Minister of State, demonstrating not only to the Chinese but also the world what kind of critical position Mr. Ajit Doval holds in official consideration and national discourse.

There is little doubt that historians of future would glorify Mr. Doval’s contribution -- particularly in sorting out the intractable Kashmir tangle. His proactive approach to things, his actual work as a man of Intelligence (despite being the NSA), his personal connect deep into Kashmir’s netherworld and subterranean politics helped the Government unravel the complex Kashmir tangle like nothing else could. And the operation “Jackboot” is only small example of Mr. Doval’s capability and contribution in the ticklish Kashmir arena beset with separatism and clouded by terrorism.

The assertiveness in Mr. Doval’s persona stems from his deep commitment to the national cause. Quite many years ago, from a think-tank platform, Mr. Doval had sketched a rather dismal picture of the national security scenario when Dr. Manmohan Singh headed the Government. Yet, his statement had no political colour. He highlighted India’s strengths and pointed to the problematic issues. But there was no despair in his tone. The audience could read the emotion of national pride easily from his statement -- that things can be corrected with appropriate care and caution.

Of course, in the past 5-6 years, things have changed for the better, and Mr. Ajit Doval has played his role in the changing paradigm. It is a good fortune of the nation that the current leadership -- of which Mr. Doval is a critical factor -- looks at issues of national security with a greater focus and sense of purpose.