An army jawan during an encounter between the security forces and terrorists at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot. (Press Trust of India)
The fight against terror is a complex issue in the Indian subcontinent as evident in the aftermath of the recent terror attack that left 7 Indian military personnel dead and 20 injured at the Pathankot airbase which is located in Punjab and forms a part of Western air command of Indian Air Force, writes Priyanka Bhardwaj. (#India-Pak-Relations, @IndiaPakRelations, #FightingTerror, @FightingTerror, #Siliconeer, @Siliconeer)
Relating the assault operation a military report states it to be the handiwork of two groups of terrorists who clandestinely breached the airbase wearing army uniforms.
Acting as a guide the first band carried Improvised Explosive Devices, Indian authorities have highly flammable incendiary gels, and ammonium nitrate to blow up military assets, and the second blew up motorcycles and parked cars in the residential area.
Though the United Jihad Council (linked to the Jammu and Kashmir imbroglio) claimed the responsibility of the deadly attacks, Indian authorities, on the basis of evidence, has pinned the onus of orchestrating the attack on the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), an Islamist militant group designated a terrorist organization by India, USA, the UK and the United Nations.
In its quest for justice and prompt action against the perpetrators of crimes against humanity New Delhi appealed to the Western world to bear influence on Islamabad but nothing much has been accomplished in this regard.
Pakistan has been handed “specific and actionable information” including intercepts of phone calls made by terrorists to their handlers in Pakistan and ammunition and other equipment used by them to have been manufactured in Pakistan that prove the terrorists’ origins.
Besides instituting a team of intelligence and military personnel Pakistan has labeled the evidences as largely “insufficient” and stated that the phone numbers are not registered in their country.
In weeks post attacks it has not taken any concrete action against Maulana Masood Azhar, Chief of Pakistan-based terror group JeM or JeM operatives, responsible for plotting the Pathankot attack.
Exacerbating the matter was the downing of a balloon, not equipped with any surveillance or other device, on Republic Day that flew into India skies from the Pakistani border.
Once again faced with this dilemma of terror incidents occurring in the run up to bilateral engagement between the two neighbors, New Delhi is dilly-dallying with marking a specific date for the comprehensive dialog of foreign secretaries to take place.
Attacks are a regular chapter revisited prior to engagement initiatives and this time hence, experts agree, they certainly are a part of a derailment strategy of the impending dialog.
Last August foreign secretaries’ talks were stalled but then with the meeting of the two countries’ National Security Guards in November, followed by the visit of Indian Minister Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan and then the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s impromptu-stopover at Islamabad the ball had been set rolling for an balancing the keel of ties.
However, the January attacks nullified the political efforts by pushing back New Delhi in a state of guard.
What can therefore be stated with certainty that this terror incident will not be the last one nor will it be a decisive moment for the two countries to come together to wage a joint war to eradicate terrorism in their regions.
If joint declarations and resolutions are any crucial in the path to wiping out terror so are the works for augmenting preparedness of security architecture, action on intelligence inputs and creation of military synergy.
At the policy level as well New Delhi would have to segregate strategy from diplomacy in its foreign affairs.
Everyone knows that Pakistani establishments have never been proactive or unanimous participants in tacking the terror menace.
If push comes to a shove the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif who has staked his power by going against the Inter State Intelligence and his military in assuring India by instituting an investigating team to look into the Pathankot attack may lose his political leverage.
New Delhi cannot allow extremists from exploiting any political vacuum and therefore cannot pressurize Sharif beyond a point and expect an immediate ban on all terror networks that have flourished on Pakistani soil.
The bloodbaths of 2015, Taliban attacks in Pakistan, have definitely generated a need for it to clampdown the homegrown terror and these efforts need to be encouraged by India.
Hence the approach to engaging with Pakistan can be crafted only in future dissociation of diplomatic engagements and retaliatory measures against terror attacks.
Much has already been lost to emotion and public opinion in times of crises and definite neighborhood policies are the most suitable techniques to make for strategic spaces that shall allow India to lead from the front, in the direction of peace and growth.