Stand Up For Free Speech, In Memory Of Charlie Hebdo: New Age Islam’s Selection From Indian Press, 11 January 2016

 

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

January 11, 2016

Stand Up For Free Speech, In Memory Of Charlie Hebdo

By Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar

Lahore Was The Kind Of Gesture That Galvanizes History; It Scared Jihadis

By Bruce Riedel

Spoiler’s Limits

By Paul Staniland

Pathankot Attack: A Terror Strike, Some Hard Truths

By H S Panag

Winning The War Of Perception

By Dhruv C Katoch

If Pak Acts, In Time, Things Can Change…

The Asian Age

‘India Lacks A Strategy On Pak’

By Kanwar Sandhu

 

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Stand up for free speech, in memory of Charlie Hebdo

By Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar

11 Jan. 16

I am Charlie. I am for free speech, even if it offends somebody . Indeed, free speech must necessarily offend somebody: speech that offends nobody can only be highly circumscribed.

Obviously , free speech can be curtailed if it calls for violence or criminality . With that caveat, all have the right to freely express opinions (no matter how zany), or crack jokes (no matter how poor), or draw cartoons (no matter how offensive).

It’s now the first anniversary of the attack by Muslim gunmen on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. They shot 12 people for the sacrilege of carrying cartoons supposedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Shocked statesmen of the world joined French president Hollande in a march through Paris proclaiming “Je suis Charlie“ (meaning “I am Charlie“), in solidarity with the slain journalists. The attempt of the gunmen to silence the cartoonists is now called the Assassin’s Veto, a threat to free speech across the world.

Support for Charlie Hebdo was not universal. Many politicians and intellectuals worried about cartoons that offended Muslims. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius asked, “Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?“ A better approach came from Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, who deplored “the mocking tone of the paper toward Islam and its prophet“ but affirmed his “total opposition“ to all violence. Anybody offended by free speech is welcome to denounce the offender, launch a lawsuit, or launch a peaceful agitation. But nobody is entitled to beat up or kill others they find offensive.

All Indian intellectuals condemned the killing of the French cartoonists, but some also condemned the supposed insult to Islam. Some seemed as critical of the cartoonists as the killers. This reminds me of the hypocrisy of the Hindutva crowd that condemned Hindu mob killing of a supposed beefeater in Dadri, but added that beef-eating would naturally inflame offended Hindus and have unfortunate consequences.Liberal intellectuals have, rightly , criticized this inability to condemn Hindu assassins outright. But many liberals are also guilty of the hypocritical inability to condemn Muslim assassins outright.

Indian intellectuals have recently protested against the rising climate of intolerance, and many have returned national awards. I cannot agree more on the need for tolerance.But it is wrong to emphasize only rising Hindu intolerance.Muslim intolerance must be condemned too. So must Christian intolerance, epitomized in attacks on and killings of the staff of US abortion clinics. Intolerant violence is a threat everywhere and must be condemned everywhere. Remember that on the anniversary of Charlie Hebdo.

It is dishonest to pretend that different faiths have full respect for one another. On the contrary , their beliefs are insulting to one another. It could hardly be otherwise, given that each group believes its own god to be true and other gods to be false. Mahatma Gandhi held that Ishwar and Allah were different names of the same god, but millions of Hindus and Muslims would strongly disagree.

Muslims believe that the only god is Allah and his Prophet is Muhammad. This is, however, insulting and blasphemous to people with other gods and prophets.

Christian texts refer to Hindus, Buddhists and others as “heathen“ who cannot presume to enter heaven. That is an insult. Muslims hold that Hindus and others are kaffirs unworthy of heaven, again an insult. Hindus believe that good humans are reborn into the upper castes, second-raters into the lower castes, and bad ones as mlechhas (a pariah category including Christians, Jews and Muslims) or even as dogs and pigs. How utterly insulting! So, offending religious sentiments is not an aberration that free speech can avoid. Offence is inherent in the very structure of different faiths. Tolerance lies in appreciating that one’s own beliefs are insulting to others, and hence not taking offence at others, and always avoiding violence.

I belong to the small group of liberal atheists. We are not an organized religion but have beliefs and values like any faith.We find all organized religions utterly offensive: some even decree imprisonment or execution for atheists. Do I have the right to attack or kill those with such offensive attitudes?

Absolutely not.

Three rationalist writers and activists -Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi -have been murdered in the last two years.The police have no clue whether this is a pattern, or who the killers are.

I too am an aggressive rationalist. Perhaps I too am on a blacklist. By writing this column, I may have moved myself directly into the firing line. I am happy to take the risk. When I ask others to stand up to the Assassin’s Veto, I can do no less. I am Charlie.

Source: The times of India

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Lahore was the kind of gesture that galvanizes history; it scared jihadis

By Bruce Riedel

He has written extensively on South Asia and West Asia, his most recent book being `JFK’s Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA and the Sino-Indian War’. The senior fellow at Brookings Institution speaks to Anahita Mukherji on the Pathankot attack, the Modi-Sharif meeting and hopes of Indo-Pak detente post Lahore

You say ISI was behind the attack on Pathankot and on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan.Wasn’t the Pathankot attack enough to destabilize Indo-Pak ties? Why another attack?

PM Modi’s trip to Lahore was the kind of expansive gesture that galvanizes history .The jihadists and their patrons are horrified that he was so well received in Lahore and frightened they will lose control.I don’t think we have seen their full response yet. I anticipate more attempts to sabotage the political process.

What is the way forward for Indo-Pak ties if Pakistan’s civilian government and its armycontrolled intelligence agency work at crosspurposes?

Pakistan has a long history of troubled civil-military relations. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is apparently genuinely interested in detente with India (and Afghanistan). The army is not. The challenge for India is how to handle this tricky environment. Expectations should be modest and focus on tangible improvements in people-to-people issues like travel, tourism and communications.Expanding trade and commerce is crucial to build constituents who favour detente.More frequent contact between the two PMs can help iron out differences. They should meet regularly .

Unlike earlier attacks, this one is supposed to have been carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a group banned in Pakistan. Doesn’t this allow Pakistan’s administration to wash its hands of the attack, even if its origins lie on Pakistani soil?

I don’t think many observers are fooled by the ban on JEM or LET. The ISI still patronizes both. Their leaders operate openly and freely. They openly criticize Sharif, Modi and Obama. They engage in incitement. Remember, both worked together in the 2001 attack on Parliament.

How can Pakistan’s democratic institutions and civilian government gain more power over its army and intelligence agency?

Pakistani civilian-elected governments have struggled for decades to control the army with little success. It will take time and effort, and the right general as COAS (Chief of Army Staff). The US can help by not coddling the generals and impos ing a price for supporting terror on t the military, not on Pakistan.

The US has played a dual role in the stability of the subcontinent. America was initially responsible for supporting what was to become the Taliban in its battle against Russia in the ’80s. Do you believe America erred on that score?

The mujahideen war in the 1980s defeated a great totalitari defeated a great tota an re gime and removed the danger of thermonuclear war between Moscow and Washington. It led to the freedom of millions in Eastern Europe. At the same time it laid the seeds for what became the global jihad. Zia-ul Haq was the father of the global jihad. Like most great transitions in history, the war had complex consequences. According to you, what are the underlying motives for the current Saudi-Iran tensions?

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been rivals for decades even before the Iranian revolution. Persian Shia versus Arab Sunni, it’s a deadly cocktail. Today they are engaged in multiple overlapping proxy wars. Both are bogged down in quagmires: Iran in Syria bolstering Assad and Saudi Arabia in Yemen fighting the Houthis. Both are expensive wars at a time when oil prices are collapsing. The Saudi leadership has proven to be somewhat reckless. Even Pakistan recognized the Yemeni adventure was poorly conceived, and wisely stayed out. The Pakistani decision to stay out robbed the Saudis of their crucial ground forces.

Saudi-Iran tensions have split West Asia along Sunni-Shia lines. What are the implications of this for the region?

The region is undergoing a catastrophic transition since the failure of the Arab Spring. Multiple interlocking civil wars, multiple interconnected terrorist groups and multiple outside actors intervening.

It will get worse because of the sectarian dimension which ignites deep pas sions. Both Tehran and Riyadh are pouring gasoline on an inferno.

Would these tensions have any repercussions on South Asia?

South Asia already feels the ripples of the fire. The Islamic State has ar rived. This is another reason for Modi and Sharif to find common ground. A detente between New Delhi and Islamabad is hard to make happen but it would help to insulate India from the storm to its west.

Bruce Riedel is a former CIA analyst and an American security expert.

Source: The Times of India

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Spoiler’s Limits

By Paul Staniland

January 11, 2016

The attack on the Pathankot IAF base is part of a long string of “spoiler” attacks aimed at undermining India-Pakistan relations. Pakistani militants with deep connections to the Pakistan army, such Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, have regularly struck after signs of a thaw. In the wake of Narendra Modi’s visit to Lahore, this kind of attack was all too predictable. Yet, despite understandable public outcry and past success, these spoiler attacks will be increasingly ineffective for the Pakistani military and its non-state allies. This is because research shows that successful “spoiling” rests on conditions that don’t currently exist in India.

Spoiling can undermine talks in two ways. First, spoiler strategies can block normalisation when they provide new information about the power or resolve of the “spoiling” actor. Attacks make a government aware of the importance of a previously marginal actor clearly not controlled by its negotiating partner. The classic example is Hamas’s terror campaign in the 1990s, which made the Israeli public unwilling to trust its Palestinian negotiating counterparts.

This doesn’t apply to Pathankot or similar future attacks. We already know Pakistan army-backed militants are able to slip across the border and launch deadly but low-level attacks. Unfortunately, there’s nothing strategically new here, no matter how dramatic these attacks are. They pose a dangerous problem, but manageable. Though improved border control and internal security aren’t rhetorically stirring solutions, such reforms can eliminate future attacks. Rather than an existential threat to India, such assaults show the limits of Pakistani militants’ and the Pakistan army’s power projection: They do nothing to change the balance of power. Because they are now so predictable, this strategy of militancy is a wasting asset that can deliver little of real strategic importance.

Second, spoilers can be effective when they create wedges between “hawks” and “doves” and strengthen the hawks in one of the negotiating partners. This domestic shift can destroy normalisation efforts. This is clearly a goal of Pathankot-like attacks, aiming to create domestic polarisation in India. Pakistan’s military thrives on presenting Pakistan as facing a siege from a Hindu majoritarian India.

This form of spoiling is likely to be much less effective now. Congress governments were often vulnerable to the BJP accusing them of being soft on national security. It’s far more difficult to credibly criticise Modi and Ajit Doval from the right. Like Richard Nixon going to China, Modi has unusual domestic advantages in holding critics at bay. By far the biggest political vulnerability Modi faces is from regional parties. Though they will act opportunistically around foreign policy, their brands are not built around it. There’s no national party that can make a politically potent case against Modi as being too soft on Pakistan. His domestic room to manoeuvre would be the envy of past PMs.

Pathankot-style attacks cannot accomplish much if Modi, Doval and Sushma Swaraj have the political will to move forward. Pathankot teaches us nothing new about Pakistan’s military and non-state groups, nor does it change Modi’s strengths and weaknesses. There are more escalatory options, such as a repeat of 26/11, but they are risky and difficult. Border defence, intelligence and internal security reforms are the best defence against these “urban spectacular” threats. Future attacks can be prevented or contained without undermining the Modi-Sharif engagement.

Just as India is limited in its ability to retaliate, so is Pakistan’s military limited in its ability to inflict harm. Strikes like Pathankot are desperate bids to escape the inescapable facts of geopolitics in South Asia. They do nothing to change India’s long-run structural advantages. The unsolvable problem for Pakistan’s military is India’s economic and demographic growth and its growing geopolitical role. Even consistent terrorist attacks cannot slow this ever-growing asymmetry in power.

Talks with Pakistan’s civilians are unlikely to change much. The army remains the key power. But India shouldn’t give a veto over rapprochement efforts to the army or its militant allies. Control over the talks is precisely what these actors want. Instead of being reactive, Indian policymakers should take advantage of spoiling’s limited effectiveness to boldly move forward with their own agenda.

indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/spoilers-limits/99/print/

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Pathankot attack: A terror strike, some hard truths

By H S Panag

January 11, 2016 8:26 am

At the best of times, the security of our air bases leaves much to be desired. A barbed-wire fence and/ or a 10-foot wall with towers along the outer perimeter secures the domestic area, which has offices, barracks and messes. A second-tier security fence protects the technical area, where hangars, aircraft pens, control tower and runway are located. An air base is guarded by five to six platoons (60 men each) of the Defence Security Corps (DSC) comprised of 40 to 55-year-old retired armed forces personnel. DSC soldiers are, at best, suited for static guard duties. In addition to the DSC, an air base has two to three sections (10 men each) of IAF police to assist in manning the gates, and a platoon (30 men) of Garuds, the special forces of the IAF, but with training standards well below par. Over all, an air base has 1,500-2,000 airmen armed with basic weapons and little or no combat training.

Of these, non-technical personnel also do guard duty inside the perimeter and, when required, man the perimeter, too. There are no electronic sensors or CCTV cameras along the security fences, or night-vision devices. The outer perimeter has poorly maintained lighting, which was “non-functional” in sections at the Pathankot air base.

Intelligence and warning came in, in the early hours of January 1, under unusual circumstances. An off-duty SP of Gurdaspur, accompanied by two others, was carjacked by four terrorists close to the International Border (IB). The occupants were beaten, bound and dumped at two different places close to the air base. The SP reported the matter to the police, which disbelieved him initially but then investigated the case. A slain taxi driver and his damaged car were also recovered close to the area of the carjacking. The SP’s role is being investigated. Circumstances indicate that the ISI exploited drug smugglers and trapped the taxi driver and the SP, who were probably complicit in the drug trade. The terrorists may have planned to use the SP’s blue-beacon SUV for easy movement. The complicity of other rogue BSF and Punjab Police personnel involved in drug smuggling cannot be ruled out.

By the afternoon of January 1, security measures were in full swing at the air base, assessed as the most likely target, and Mamoon Cantt, another prospective target, where the 29 Infantry Division is located. The macro — and even micro — planning was done by NSA Ajit Doval, who chaired a conference attended by the chiefs of army and air staff and director, Intelligence Bureau. It was decided that the air base’s protection would be beefed up by the army and that a team of the NSG would be located there. The police had started general combing of the area but the public was not taken into confidence. Inexplicably, no lead agency was earmarked and no commander for command and control was specified. Surprisingly, this issue was not raised and there was no objection to the deployment of the NSG in a military area, even though two special forces teams of the army were already in location or on their way. The general officer commanding (GOC), 29 Infantry Division, the seniormost commander at Pathankot, was given no responsibility with respect to command and control.

By the evening of January 1, two army columns and two teams of special forces under Brigadier A.S. Bevli were in location at the air base, primarily tasked with protecting the technical area and vital assets. At 10 pm, 130 personnel of the NSG landed at the base. Another 80 personnel arrived at 2.30 am on January 2. Even at this stage, despite the multiple agencies involved — the IAF, army, NSG, Punjab Police and BSF — no lead agency was earmarked. All aircraft except some attack and surveillance helicopters were flown out.

The command and control of this multi-agency operation was resolved when the inspector general (IG), NSG, and Bevli had a tussle over the issue. It was decided by the army headquarters/ NSA that the IG, NSG, would coordinate the operations. He apparently set up an ad hoc command post but without proper staff and communications. This was a most unsatisfactory arrangement and had a telling effect on the conduct of the operation. Logically, the operation should have been under the command of the GOC, 29 Infantry Division.

The terrorists penetrated the air base from the west. No effort had been made to place additional troops on the perimeter, which at least one infantry battalion should have secured and patrolled. This was a glaring lapse. At 3.30 am on January 2, the terrorists struck at the DSC mess, where unarmed soldiers — despite the alert — were preparing breakfast. Five DSC personnel died in this initial surprise attack. One airman of the Garuds was also killed. The NSG reacted and managed to isolate the terrorists in the DSC/ airmen’s living quarters. Army columns and special forces teams continued to secure the technical area. By day time, the army special forces teams also joined the NSG. By the evening, four terrorists had been eliminated. The operation was declared virtually over. But the area was not combed properly — a command and control lapse. The NSG is not trained to comb a large area and additional army troops had to be brought in. The government announced the success of the operation — another lapse due to poor command and control. Around midday on January 3, terrorists who were lying doggo opened fire, much to the surprise of the NSG. The operation was over by January 5, though combing carried on.

The positive is that the critical assets of the IAF are safe — more due to the advanced warning than the security of the base per se. Imagine what would have happened if, without warning, six terrorists had penetrated the base with aircraft and helicopters parked in clusters in the open.

It is pertinent to highlight the lessons learnt. The IB around the Shakargarh Bulge from Samba to Dera Baba Nanak is extremely vulnerable. The BSF in this area needs to be enhanced with more manpower and electronic surveillance devices. The ISI-terrorist-drug cartel nexus has to be penetrated and broken by cracking down on the drug trade. Drug trade facilitators in the BSF and Punjab Police need to be identified and prosecuted. This operation, once again, highlights the need for better intelligence coordination between the Intelligence Bureau, BSF, police, army and IAF.

The basic security of air bases needs to be improved. Electronic surveillance and security devices need to be installed and better lighting ensured. Air base security battalions with six companies at par with the standards of infantry battalions must be raised at the earliest. Built-up areas must be cleared up to 1 km around air bases and military installations.

For counter-terrorist operations, a lead agency and a commander for single-point command and control must be earmarked. In this situation, the GOC, 29 Infantry Division, with 20,000 troops and two teams of special forces under him, was the most appropriate choice. The security of the air base should have been his responsibility, with the NSG, if required, under his command. Armed forces troops must never be placed under the command of the NSG or other police and paramilitary commanders. It has an adverse affect on morale. The NSA must refrain from micromanaging operations in military domains. Broad directives can be given but detailed planning should be left to the armed forces.

We clearly have not learnt lessons from 26/11, and repeated the same mistakes, albeit on a smaller scale. We may not get a third chance.

indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/pathankot-attack-a-terror-strike-some-hard-truths/99/print/

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Winning the war of perception

By Dhruv C Katoch

Monday, 11 January 2016

The poor coverage of the Pathankot attack, marked by confusing commentary based on half-baked facts, underlines once again how important it is for the authorities to set up a proper mechanism for media briefings in such crises

The anti-terrorist operation at Pathankot air base is finally over, and it is now time for introspection. Despite the fact that advance warnings of an attack were given, it appears that the Defence Security Corps personnel at the air base were caught by surprise when they were attacked in the early hours of January 2.

The importance of briefings and of preparing troops on action required to be taken for various contingencies cannot be glossed over as that forms an important part of command functions. That notwithstanding, the follow-up reactions were well executed, leading to the elimination of all six terrorists.

Once military operations are underway, it is understandable that the focus of commanders must remain on winning the engagement in a swift and efficient manner. But in the information age, it is equally important to win the battle of perceptions that inevitably will be waged across the world. This too is a command responsibility, which the Armed Forces need to pay greater attention to.

A terrorist attack on a forward airbase will certainly attract headlines across the world. The fact that such an attack took place just a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Pakistani counterpart in Lahore, simply increased the newsworthiness of the dastardly event. But the way the media was handled showed glaring ineptitude and a total lack of understanding of such a vital aspect of operations.

For the common citizen, it was difficult to determine what exactly was happening on the ground. The information being beamed out from different news channels was contradictory and confusing, and this continued for the first two days of the operation. There appeared to be no clarity on the number of terrorists that had infiltrated into the base, or on how many of them had been eliminated. Worse, the information about own troops who had been killed in action or who had been injured was presented in a haphazard manner, thereby conveying a sense that all was not under control at the airbase. Winning the kinetic war is of little consequence if the battle for perceptions is lost in the public domain.

During crisis situations, it is incumbent on the part of the security forces to keep the media engaged for the entire duration of the operation. This facet cannot be overstated. The media must be provided with information that is factual, timely, and relevant.

If news from the security forces is not forthcoming, the media will simply get what information they can from any available source, which may or may not be true. The Armed Forces must hence be prepared at all times for such an eventuality.

In crisis situations, a media briefing room must be established immediately, which should be manned by trained personnel, who have complete knowledge of the events that are taking place on the ground. Hourly briefings and updates should be provided. Journalists should be given the news they need and provided a balanced perspective of what is happening on the ground.

It stands to reason that there will be periods of lull. This must be filled in with other tidbits of information that the media could make use of. The need for the media to crowd the place of action will hence not arise, if the information it seeks is made available at the briefing room established for the purpose.

The media too needs to show some level of sensitivity. Images of wailing relatives of deceased soldiers does no good to national morale, but acts as a motivator to terrorists and their handlers to continue to target and bleed India. What needs to be projected while covering such actions is the national resolve to fight the forces of evil and defeat their nefarious designs.

Perception management must hence be an integral part of military operations. Otherwise, even a brilliantly conducted operation as evidenced in the elimination of six terrorists in the Pathankot air base, can become the subject of loose talk and ridicule.

Dhruv C Katochis a retired Major General and currently the editor of the news magazine, Salute

dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/winning-the-war-of-perception.html

——

If Pak acts, in time, things can change…

The Asian Age

Jan 10, 2016

The Pakistan PM must realise that if genuine steps are not taken against those who organised the attack, the diplomatic re-engagement process will wilt on the vine

At the highest levels — that of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country’s all-powerful defence and intelligence establishments — the Pakistani reaction to the recent Pathankot attack has appeared to be reasonable and lacking in its customary stridency. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the Narendra Modi government hadn’t named Pakistan in a bid to save the diplomatic discourse rekindled through the Indian PM’s personal initiative just weeks ago, though the attack was mounted from Pakistani soil. And yet, there is an underlying message of holding back from Islamabad.

In a telephonic talk Mr Modi urged Mr Sharif to act swiftly to bring the attackers to book. For this process to begin, the Indian side provided the Pakistanis the mobile phone numbers in that country the terrorists were dialling from Pathankot, as they took instructions from handlers who are apparently senior figures in the ISI-backed and known anti-India terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad, that had mounted the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 during the last NDA government.

The Pakistan PM must realise that if genuine steps are not taken against those who organised the attack, the diplomatic re-engagement process will wilt on the vine. The time is short. The foreign secretaries of the two nations were due to meet on January 15, but that was before Pathankot. Now no one can be sure, although it seems the two PMs do not wish a rupture in diplomatic contact restarted after so much difficulty.

For all the seeming eagerness to save the ongoing diplomatic narrative, the sub-text of the messages from Islamabad is that the Indian evidence may be “insufficient” and may not stand up in court. In short, Pakistan may have difficulty in catching the terrorist masterminds based on telephone numbers and intercepts.

Islamabad should seek to recall the nature of the evidence it brandished in court when it sent the terrorists behind the infamous Peshawar school attack to the gallows. Not to put too fine a point on it, those terrorists were executed through the process of martial law with Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif signing their death warrants, for doing which he became an instant hero in Pakistan.

Can the Pakistan government and Army summon the same determination in pursuing the cause of justice when their nationals have attacked India? If they do, the dynamics between the two countries can undergo a sea change.

The United States also appears to be pressuring Pakistan not to delay in handling the Indian request for the sake of regional peace. Historically, such urgings have not meant much though this time around the sale of eight F-16 fighters may be influenced by a negative Pakistani response. But all that is still speculation.

asianage.com/editorial/if-pak-acts-time-things-can-change-573

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‘India lacks a strategy on Pak’

By Kanwar Sandhu

Jan 09, 2016

while U.S. has managed to prevent a repeat of 9/11, we are repeatedly caught off-guard because we have failed to create a comprehensive secure environment

The January 2 terrorist attack on Pathankot airbase once again points to the lack of not just an immediate but also a long-term strategy to deal with our warring neighbour, Pakistan. Whenever a terror attack occurs, there is an immediate public outcry and media outrage but soon it is business as usual. In recent years, it happened in November 2008 when there were attacks across Mumbai resulting in loss of 166 lives. Then again in July 2015, there was the usual noise when Dinanagar police station was stormed causing seven fatalities. The latest attack on Pathankot airbase, in which a group of six terrorists inflicted seven casualties, has the nation all worked up again.

The question being asked is: how is it that while America has managed to prevent a repeat of 9/11, we are repeatedly caught off-guard? This is primarily because unlike the US, we have failed to create a secure environment in our country. We invariably end up tightening security in areas that are attacked. If Parliament is attacked, security check-points spring up there. If a five-star hotel is attacked, all such hotels beef up security. All that the terrorists need to do is to avoid the secured places and target other places, as they have been doing! To avoid this hide and seek, we need to work towards creating a comprehensive security environment in the country.

India has continued to bleed because it has failed to devise a strategy to deal with Pakistan’s continuing policy of irregular warfare, both in times of war and peace. Starting with 1947, when it sent tribesmen into Kashmir, and then in 1965, when it launched irregulars before Pakistan launched its main offensive, it has continued with this policy.

That a frontline airbase like Pathankot was penetrated reflects a gross failure. Pakistan has targeted this base since long. During the 1965 War, Pathankot was among the three airbases on which Pakistan’s Special Service Group (SSG) commandos were para-dropped to make the runways unfit for aerial missions. Fortunately, the bold plan failed as they were discovered and hunted down by the locals.

The obvious need is to deal with Pakistan at two different levels – immediate and long term. In the short term, we need to work towards having a two- or three-tiered defence of the borders manned by three different outfits – BSF, Army and the state police. Two, ensure that each of the defence and other important installations have not just static security but also quick reaction teams (QRTs) at hand to deal with any eventuality.

Since Pakistan has, at least on the face of it, agreed to carry out fair investigations into Pathankot attack, the two countries must work towards building a mechanism to deal with such incursions. Earlier, in 2003, the two agreed on a ceasefire on the LOC, which has more or less held, with the exception of a few violations. Since we have a live border, such an arrangement will have to be thrashed out by military experts on the two sides. Like in case of Pakistan, India should appoint a retired military officer as its National Security Adviser (NSA) to ensure better understanding of the military issues at hand.

In the light of the recent incidents of infiltration, it is important to identify and plug the gaps on the border. All along the International Border (IB) with Pakistan, there is BSF deployment. However, the 760-km Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan is primarily manned by the Army. All along the IB and LOC, India has managed to put up a fence, which has proved to be extremely effective in preventing infiltration.

However, the portion of the IB which requires special attention is the 210-km stretch, which Pakistan refers to as the Working Boundary (since it falls in Punjab on the Pak side and in J&K on the Indian side). Parts of the riverine stretch from Madhopur Headworks to Munnawar Tavi are often exploited by terrorists.

Fortunately, unlike in Kashmir, the Pak terrorists are not getting support from the Sikhs in Punjab.

While the respective NSAs grapple with day-to-day issues, it is important that the political leadership of the two nuclear powers work on removing the irritants. For normalisation of relations, issues that must be addressed include the Kashmir dispute, besides Siachen and Sir Creek. It is time, the political leadership of both work towards building a consensus on a peace pact of the kind that two warring states of Egypt and Israel signed 36 years ago. After clashing repeatedly over the Sinai Peninsula and other areas, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in the presence of the US President in 1979. The two sides agreed to cessation of the state of war and demilitarisation of the disputed areas besides certain other things. The peace accord has held till date, though in the process, Sadat was assassinated.

Obviously for a thaw in Indo-Pak relations, political leaders on both sides will need to stick their necks out and be prepared to make, if need be, the supreme sacrifice. But, clearly, as of now, the leaders on the two sides are content with pushing their soldiers to do so.

Kanwar Sandhu is a Chandigarh-based journalist, who is a defence and security analyst

asianage.com/columnists/india-lacks-strategy-pak-399

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