The Indian Government must respond to the terrorist attack in Pulwama: But how?

by February 16, 2019 0 comments

Though it goes without saying that the Government must retaliate, it must be “proactive” and not “reactive”.

Beyond all the condemnation of the recent Pulwama attack – the worst offensive by terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir – and the candlelight vigils for the young martyrs, the only takeaway is that we can no longer be seen as a soft state and notch up a timeline of fidayeen honours. What we need is to take demonstrable muscular action. Even if the world, US and Russia included, have condemned the attack and we have withdrawn our MFN status to Pakistan to strangulate it economically, there has to be a clear message to Jaish-e-Mohammad. India must junk strategic delicacies and robustly insist its chief Masood Azhar be named a UN-designated terrorist, global action be taken against him, and Pakistan be diplomatically  isolated if it does not hand him over. The message should be that Jammu & Kashmir can no longer be milked politically as years of talks have yielded nothing and backdoor engagement has only meant that one or the other group and local politicians have wangled some relevance and power in the process. The only winner here has been the Pakistani deep state, which is using terror to maintain its hold over the strategic backyard, especially in relation to Afghanistan and China. And now that the Taliban, to whom Pakistan has provided safe havens all these years, is reclaiming its hold in Afghanistan following the US plans to pull out troops, it is chuckling vis-a-vis India. We have to be proactive, not reactive, considering the size of our economy and consequent relevance in South Asian geopolitics.

The attack is disturbing not only for the unprecedented scale of human devastation but for other reasons. Coming as it does after attempts on a series of defence establishments, it shows that our standard operating procedures are no good for protecting Army bases and the militants have somehow not only innovated but penetrated deep layers of our security systems with the ease of a sly fox. There has been talk of armoured vehicles for convoys but the proposal has hardly got off the ground. Second, though the Army and our intelligence claim to have penetrated local networks, they have not picked up the radicalised mutation of terrorist modules. What else could explain that though the security forces have smashed the Jaish and Lashkar camps and taken out their top commanders, the propaganda machine from across the border has managed to nurture and proselytize local teenagers into believing that shahadat for the liberation of Kashmir is greater than life itself. True, Jaish has been worried about its receding pockets of influence as November and December 2018 have been the deadliest months with 39 terrorists killed in Jammu and Kashmir. One of the major kills was of Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Naveed Jatt. The Army is in fact now focussing on terrorist leadership in the hubs of Shopian, Anantnag, Budgam, Kulgam and Srinagar. Significantly, credible local intelligence also came from the local population, who are tired and exhausted after losing family members and want to be stakeholders in their own lives. Without local cooperation, security forces could not have neutralised about 18 terrorists, including top commanders, in South Kashmir over four days! So Jaish was indirectly sending a message to the local Kashmiris as well by roping in one of them as a suicide bomber. Third, the tactics employed by the assailants, ramming in an explosive-laden vehicle into the intended target, were painfully similar to those of the ISIS in Syria and Afghanistan and seems Kashmir will be their new hunting ground for nihilistic attacks against the Indian state. Most importantly, any hitback that will be expectedly brutal and punishing can further polarise society and worse drive modern Kashmiris, some of whom have just begun the process of mainstreaming themselves economically and socially in our metro cities, back into ghettos of suspicion. If the communal riots in Jammu are any indication, then we have set back that process by decades. As for the government, which has mouthed “josh” far too many times, it is time to show one and end Pakistan’s adventurism once and for all.

Courtesy: The Pioneer

Writer: Pioneer

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