WITH KASHMIR FORTIFIED, EXPECT MORE ATTACKS IN PUNJAB

WITH KASHMIR FORTIFIED, EXPECT MORE ATTACKS IN PUNJAB

To any serious observer of terror attacks on Indian soil over the past 25 years, the hand of the Pakistani ‘deep state’ has more often than not been visible on the tell tale signs of their role in planning, training, arming and guiding the terrorists, as most recently in Pathankot. Of course these are rarely admitted, with the exception of a statement by the former DG ISI, Lt Gen. Javed Ashraf, who confirmed to the Pakistani National Assembly in 2004 that the Jaish-e-Muhammad had been responsible for killing thousands of Kashmiris and for the attack on the Indian parliament. And there have been a few casual statements by General Musharraf on the control exercised by the Pakistan army on all the terror groups that it has cultivated as proxies against India, over the years.

Therefore, the announcement that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his top cabinet ministers have decided along with the Pakistan army chief and his brass hats, to collectively act in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the Pathankot airbase, is rather unusual development. To what extent were the attacks the handiwork of the Pakistan Army’s hawks will take time if at all, to be established. What is certain is that these attacks came from across the border, as the markings on the ammunition and medicine packs and the military foot print of the terrorists have clearly shown.

What the attack has also shown is that despite so many years of battling terror attacks and all this noise about being prepared to handle a 26/11 type attack on an Indian city, the Indian response has raised more questions than it has answered. And though Indian officials are in a self congratulatory mood, by claiming that they have successfully averted any damage to vital military equipment and aircrafts on the air base and prevented a hostage situation or loss of innocent lives, the jury is still out on whether the operations were successful or not.What is however clear is that Delhi is still bumbling along in its responses to Pakistan’s strategic goals of keeping India on the back foot, while threatening the use of nuclear weapons if India was to exercise the military options of strikes on terror groups and camps within Pakistan. However, there are options that India could consider, provided the policy makers are willing to think of out of the box, that go beyond knee jerk reactions on whether to talk or not to talk with Pakistan.

Moreover, Punjab as a state is now likely to be targeted by Pakistan based terror groups as the security grid in Jammu and Kashmir has become tight and effective, and the best efforts of Pakistan to unsettle the state have met with little success of late. Punjab, on the other hand, has a thriving narco-terrorism cottage industry and most of its villages along the Indo-Pak border are used by smugglers who also double up as couriers for terrorists. Moreover, Punjab police has gone to seed under the current government and has neither the efficiency nor the capability to battle terrorism as it had in the 1990s. Pakistan is aware of this weakness and has been keen for some years to push Khalistani separatists that it has harboured, back into Punjab to create an uprising, since an unsettled Punjab would divert India’s energies away from Jammu and Kashmir and that would suit Pakistan’s agenda.

And since Pakistan cannot dismantle its terror machinery overnight and wouldn’t be willing to abandon it either, until the Kashmir Valley is absorbed by them, India must thus become strong and efficient to withstand Pakistani mischief and create a comprehensive response mechanism to deal with cross border terror attacks, as these will continue, talks or no talks. The big question is: will our self serving politicians be able to work together in national interest or continue to obstruct the efforts of the current government fearing their achievements could overshadow the limitations of earlier governments.

This was first published in THE WEEK, dated January 24, 2015, titled “Expect more shocks in Punjab”

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