Barely a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unannounced landing at Lahore to personally greet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday, Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad made a daring pre-dawn attack on Indian Air Force’s Pathankot airbase. This incident, a third since the Dinanagar police station attack in the last week of July, has taken place at a time when India is trying to take out-of-box approach to bring a thaw in the frigid relations of the two countries.
On January 15, Foreign Secretary S Jaishakar is expected to visit Pakistan to hold talks with Pakistan Prime Minister’s adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaz Aziz. Also, in a week India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US officials are about to meet to chalk out their future strategy over Afghanistan. In the midst of these developments, the Pathankot incident has come as a rude shock to those who were highly elated after seeing Modi and Sharif hugging each other when the former landed at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal international airport on December 25. Once again words like ‘betrayal’ and ‘backstabbing’ have started taking centre stage in the bilateral engagement of the two countries.
Experience shows that whenever India has attempted to normalize its relations with Islamabad, Pakistan’s defence establishment, ISI and its jihadi followers have tried to derail it with all their might. While common Pakistanis and the media had hailed Modi’s unprecedented visit to Pakistan and his participation at Sharif’s grand daughter’s wedding at Raiwind, a small town lying on the outskirts of Lahore, mastermind of the 2008 November attack on Mumbai and Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed decried the move. “Extra-ordinary reception given to Prime Minister Modi has hurt the sentiments of the loyal and patriotic people of Pakistan” Saeed, on whose head the US has placed a $10 million bounty, said.
The Jammat-ud-Dawah chief enjoys good proximity with Pakistan’s top defence officials, especially from Pakistan army’s 10th Corps which is responsible for that country’s strategic positioning on Kashmir. It is said that within the parameters of Pakistan’s India policy which is controlled by that country’s army, terrorists are recognized as strategic assets. Security experts like Ajay Sahani say that Pakistan would never give up such assets because through them only Pakistan army keeps the Kashmir issue burning apart from putting India on the tenterhooks.
Nevertheless, the Pathankot incident has once again exposed the chink in the country’s security mechanism. As it occurred at IAF’s key airbase, it speaks volume of the country’s preparedness. In July, India’s Military Intelligence (MI) had warned off terror attacks in Punjab’s areas lying along India-Pakistan border. Yet carelessness continued. Six months have passed terrorist attack on Dinanagar police station has witnessed no headway. When a SUV carrying senior police officer Salwinder Singh, his friend Rajesh Verma and Verma’s cook Madan Gopal were waylaid by a group of five armed men in army fatigues on the Pathankot-Jammu highway, security measures around the area should have been heightened. Especially after the alert was sounded that these armed men also snatched Salwinder Singh’s mobile, there should not have been any laxity on security agencies’ part. By identifying such glaring lapses, while it is urgent that officials responsible for security of bordering areas in Punjab are punished, India should also make clear to Pakistan that business can’t be as usual.
If Pakistan is serious to normalize its ties with India, the former, instead of just condemning terrorist attack in Pathankot in which three jawans, besides five terrorists were killed, should take firm action against those who sponsor terrorism against India.