Pathankot airbase attack

By K.N. Pandita

The four-day-long operation in the premises of Pathankot air base is heading towards completion. Combing operation may still be on partly. Six Pakistani terrorists have been finished. Our forces have suffered bigger loss in terms of human lives. We salute the martyred soldiers and share the grief of their kith and kin.

This is not the first attack of its kind undertaken by Pakistani jihadis. It differs from previous attacks in at least two ways. One, it came soon on the heels of PM’s unscheduled stop over at Lahore. The visit was in search of peace. Two, it was aimed at causing great damage to defence assets of Pathankot air base.

Many questions and controversies have surfaced in the aftermath of the attack. Finger is raised towards Punjab police for its delayed action. Eyebrow is raised on the kidnapping story of former SP Salwinder Singh and his “miraculous” release. The Air Commodore in-charge of Pathankot air base is under fire for ignoring many ‘Dos and Don’ts’ that would have made the security of the air base foolproof. Even some military experts have questioned the smartness of counter operations. Lack of coordination among security forces in the area where there is considerable presence of men in olive green becomes evident from how the operation was conducted. Experts say that our casualties would have been far less if pre-emptive steps had been taken on receipt of first information from intelligence sources.

In the process, Prime Minister’s stop over in Lahore is also under the discerning eye of many top brains in the country.

NIA is now conducting investigation into the entire happening. Whether its report will be made public or not is a moot point. In the meanwhile, nation has paid homage in a befitting manner to the martyrs who laid down their lives in this battle.

Pakistan has officially condemned the attack. It promises to take action against any Pakistani national if his involvement in the attack is proved by the Indian government. Despite much effort, Indian forces battling with the terrorists at the air base could not succeed in capturing even one of the terrorists alive to rebut Pakistan’s denial. However, there are other proofs which NIA may disclose at proper time.

Pakistani sources and sections of media have reverted to old story of attack could be the handiwork of Kashmir militants. The United Jihad Council headed by a Kashmiri militant and separatist Salahu’d-Din and based in Muzaffarbad and Rawalpindi has claimed the responsibility of the attack but only when the sixth and the last terrorist holed up in the two-story building was gunned down. He waited for four days just because he was keeping track lest any of the six terrorist was captured alive.

Pakistan will adhere tenaciously to its denial formula. Do what India may to gather the proofs of Pakistan-based jihadi organizations’ involvement under the guidance of ISI, Islamabad cannot accept the allegation.

Pathankot attack makes it clear that Pakistan has not one but two pivots of power, Islamabad and GHQ. Whenever GHQ’ authority or supremacy is threatened by Islamabad regime, the army manages a coup and take over.

For General Raheel, there are many odds in his way to cope with. Domestically, Pakistan is on the brink of disaster; international climate is not conducive to coup; large chunks of Pak army remain deployed in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa region and Indo-Pak border, and finally the dirty bomb in the basement on both sides.

Therefore, the only option left with the ISI is to intensify border tension in one way or the other. The purpose is to provoke India into some precipitate military action, which would help Pak army alienate nationalist elements at home so that Pakistani society is welded into one monolith on the basis of religion to fight against India. We hope Indian policy planners will not fall in that trap.

Pakistan’s history is the history of her army’s arbitrary role in all walks of life especially in her foreign policy and Kashmir. It is Pak army and its ISI wing, which have made Kashmir the power engine of their survival. Pakistan army draws its strength from two sources; the Pentagon and Saudi monarchy. India is unable to make any dent in either of the two. Modi may be trying to do it but we think he does it more sincerely than necessary. With India and Pakistan both having nuclear bomb in the basement, both are willingly unwilling to use it and decide their quarter-century old acrimonious relationship.

What then is the way out? How can we work towards neutralizing Pakistan’s venom without resorting to an open war? This question is what our policy planners and military brass should discuss with all earnestness.

This is the subject, which Pakistan took up for serious consideration and experimentation during the rule of Zia. ISI came up with several variants like Operation Balakot etc. Finally, ISI floated Operation Topac in later part of 1980s, which is going on and has succeeded to a great extent. In fact, notwithstanding, losses in terms of human lives for the suicide bombers and other jihadis, the prospects of jihadi operation against India are on the ascending graph. It means more deadly and devastating attacks will be taking place. Of course, India is on the defensive and in that mode, she is making good progress. However, remember offensive is the right defensive strategy at the end of the day.

India has not done any serious and meaningful exercise of this kind so far. The one and only one that was done with success was Bangladesh operation. But the objective of that operation was much limited in comparison to Pakistan’s Topac Operation now underway. Call it the overriding force of Indian civilizational baggage or lack of vision and also lack of will at policy planning level we are at the receiving end.

India needs to unburden her of the civilizational baggage and hollowness of moral constriction. New strategy for dealing with Pakistan is the cry of the hour. Deep study of Pakistan’s vulnerability has to be scratched and exploited by whatever means we can. I am constrained to say that our super intelligence organization is unwilling to show its mettle close to what is suggested. This is because of deep seated corruption and favouritism incapacitating the institution. Structurally as well as functionally, it is dead wood and has to be discarded. The only achievement that it claims is limited to heavily bribing the co-religious moles in the vain hope that they will be effective in fostering ideological conversion. Nothing is more fallacious than that. A former RAW chief has recently published his memoirs during Atal Bihari days. In nutshell he says he greased the palm of almost all separatist in Kashmir. How many billions has he squandered and what is the net result? Pakistani flags are now replaced by ISIS flags in the valley. Obviously, money transactions are lucrative to them.

The plan of making dent into Pakistani society, crashing its flimsy ties and connections, draining out ideological pollutant and replacing them with anti-regime toxin, and igniting the culture of subterfuge are what our inertia-prone sleuths are incapable of undertaking. And unless we do that, we shall have to lament on many more Pathankot, Gurdaspur and Mumbai assaults. Our advice to the External Affairs Ministry about Pakistan policy is this: Close all books and dossiers on International Relations; think and act out of the box.

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