After Terror Attack At Pathankot India should reinvent strategy
Pathankot terror attack is a major watershed in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy especially transforming the relations with Pakistan that were on low ebb right from the day one after his magnificent step to invite all SAARC members on his swearing in. Pakistan continued to shell the border and terror strikes did not halt. Modi took a historic and daredevil step to enter Pakistan and greeted Nawaz Sharif on his daughter’s marriage function on the return from Afghanistan, where he had inaugurated the Parliament building of Afganisthan, constructed by India. For a week, it was jubilation in peace lobby and international press and governments acclaimed his initiative. But this peace ovation did not last long. There was attack on Indian embassy in Afghanistan as a sting in the tail tradition. And on January 2, night Pakistan based-terrorists breached the border between two countries and started the worst-ever attack that failed in its mission but caused damage to peace efforts that were on between the two countries.
Pakistan has many outfits which train terrorists and some of the known terror promoters like Hafiz Saeed and others are openly operating. They are powerful in carrying out terror activities in different locations although some of them are located in Pakistans-occupied Kashmir. It is their interest that peace between the two countries does not last as they will lose their constituency and impact. It is the uniform practice of these agencies to unleash terror after any effort to mend fences between the two countries. Modi’s initiative had already shocked Hafiz and terror outfits. But their pattern of operation can be studied from the facts that last year talks between Afghanistan and Taliban were preceded by terror attacks. Asia Summit attended by Shusma Swaraj was followed by an attack on Kandhar airport. No wonder, Modi’s universally appreciated peace effort had to be foiled and there came Pathankot.
But how they operate and why is the Pakistan government not controlling them? The reason is simple that Pakistan is getting its dole from the US and others only for keeping an eye on them and giving access to US agencies to carry out their mission as they did for Osama bin Laden. Their economy is heavily depended on such doles and drug trade. This attack itself is the result of combinations of drug-terror nexus.
The result was that within a week of Modi‘s spectacular Pakistan visit, the terrorists wanted an equally spectacular attack to derail the process of peace. No doubt Pakistan has not acted strongly against the earlier complaints of India, even 26/11 for years continues to be questioned as they don’t find substantial evidence even when India gave them proof of alive Kasab who confessed to his act. They even refused to take the bodies of such confessed Pakistanis. Some experts think it is deliberate design of Pakistan policy to proclaim peace but promote terror to keep its economics of doles and drugs alive. It is therefore difficult to trust any move by Pakistan to stop these activities and nab the terror promoters and sources in their own country.
Pathankot no doubt is the greatest set-back to peace efforts although, the terrorists did not succeed in causing major damage to the airport and its aircraft or helicopters, which would have been very serious. Nevertheless, they are responsible for 7 deaths of Indian soldiers and more than 20 injured. The question now is: Did we tackle the terror attack properly? No doubt, the mission of terrorists has been thwarted but the major lacuna in the process of entry and operation of the terror attack still remains. It is well known that entire the area from Dinanagar to Gurdaspur area remains porous and smugglers frequently use this route. There was intelligence input of an attack but still a vital installation like airbase remained incompletely insulated to such intrusions. Even lights were not operating in the area of outer walls that allowed the entry. The fact that such fatigues, as were worn by intruders, are openly sold in market made things difficult as Indian personnel found it difficult to distinguish between their own men and the terrorists. Second area of mystery is SP of Gurdaspur who was not able in the middle of night of January 1, to clearly establish his presence in area when he was abducted and how he was left unscathed without being killed. The investigation will reveal whether had link with drug smugglers or terrorists.
Although Pakistan first time responded by condemning the attack and has started investigation based on clues furnished by India and there a is clear US pressure on acting on evidence rather than talking, yet it is not believed that there will be elimination of terror bases. Looking at Pakistan strategy to keep the world dependent on it for terror control is bound to result in doublespeak and schizophrenic approach. India must change its policy and instead of just going on submitting evidence only it must inflict collateral damage in many possible manners. No longer should we wait for Pakistan to solve out problem. We have to do it ourselves and reinvent our strategy.
By N K singh
(The writer is former Chairman, International Airports Authority of India.)